Positioned at the beginning of the value chain, chemical intermediates have a unique sustainability advantage. When we use materials that are renewable, we can change the ways things are done from the start and rely on materials that are easier to replenish.

With new regulations and pressures coming from what seems to be all angles, new alternatives are being tested to prioritize more sustainable solutions. Keep reading to uncover more about renewable source and bio-based alternatives.


Key takeaways:

  • Renewable sources are being prioritized as an alternative to fossil-based materials to support sustainability
  • Some early successes have been achieved which will likely become more frequent in the future
  • Bio-based alternatives will be successful in the long-term if they become available on a regular basis and at lower price points

Defining a renewable source

Renewable sources are materials made of natural resources that can be replenished quicker than the lifetime of the product and allow us to become less reliant on petro-based chemicals. They are materials that contain in their composition some bio-based, or plant-derived, raw material that can be measured through C14 (carbon fourteen).

3 promising bio-based material solutions

Within the world of chemical intermediates, there is a great interest in sustainable alternatives to monomers and building blocks. And considering they make up the primary part of the formulas we see every day, this demonstrates a promising future for bio-based materials.

Over the last few years, some bio-based alternatives have shown both interesting and promising results when compared to their petro-based counterpart. Let’s explore three innovations.


Helene Coulange

Key Account & Product Manager
Industrial Solutions


Bio-succinic acid

Product characteristics
A 100 percent bio-based succinic acid can be used as an alternative to petro-based diacids that is produced from renewable, plant-based resources which are converted via a unique low pH yeast process, a biotechnology process

Production considerations
Bio-succinic acid enables the production of polyester polyols and polyurethane products with a lower environmental footprint.

Application examples
It is commonly used in polyurethanes, resins, and plasticizers.

Itaconic acid

Product characteristics
Itaconic (dicarboxylic) acid can be used as an alternative to acrylic acid that is produced on a large scale through fermentation from glucose

Production considerations
Itaconic acid is widely used in synthetic resins, synthetic fibers, plastics, rubbers, surfactants, and oil additives.

Application examples
It is commonly used in medical, polymers, resin production, and water treatment.


Product characteristics
Being 100 percent bio-based, 1.3-propanediol can be used as an alternative to petro-based alcohols that are derived from the fermentation of industrial corn sugar

Production considerations
1.3-propanediol is a building block for bio-based polyols, a chain extender for polyurethane resins, directly replaces propylene glycol, and are high-performing and food-safe.

Application examples
It is commonly used for process heating and cooling.

Challenges in using renewable source materials

As with most sustainable products, price is normally a challenge. Today, renewable source materials and bio-based alternatives are usually not competitive with fossil-based products, creating a significant price discrepancy. Moving forward, utilizing sustainable solutions will be a balancing act for those looking to make the switch to bio-based materials.

Additionally, when using a renewable source, many technical aspects need to be considered to ensure the final chemistry and solution are not compromised.

If you’re interested to know more about the renewable sources IMCD offers, contact us today. And don’t forget to subscribe to our Industrial Solutions newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest industry insights.

About the author

Helene Coulange is a chemical engineer and is key account and product manager for IMCD Industrial Solutions. With more than 20 years in the industry, Helene brings technical knowledge and innovative ideas to her customers. As a founding member of the Industrial Solutions Sustainability Taskforce, Helene is well-versed in understanding the key sustainability trends in chemistry and how they impact our customers every day.

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