Leverkausen, Germany — Covestro and several universities have developed a process to turn sugar into aniline, a pre-cursor of MDI, the company claims.
Covestro develops bio-based aniline for MDI
Covestro makes around 20% of the world's aniline 5 MT/year output, and, the firm said, the market is growing at around 5%/year. Traditionally, aniline is made in a petrochemical process, but by starting from sugar "aniline with a much better CO2 footprint, than that manufactured with standard technology" can be made, said Gernot Jager, Covestro project manager.
The process relies on a microorganism which converts sugar into an intermediate which can then be catalysed to aniline. "This means 100% of the carbon in the aniline comes from renewable materials," Jager said.
Gemany's Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture will fund the project for two and a half years, and the work was carried out by the University of Stuttgart, CAT centre at Aachen Unviersity and Bayer, a major shareholder in Covestro and its former owner.
World production of sugar in the 2016/17 marketing year was 180 m ton, according to the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.