Green chemistry: INCREASE brings together research and industry

© LIENSs (CNRS/Université de La Rochelle)
© LIENSs (CNRS/Université de La Rochelle)

How can green chemistry be developed? According to a novel network inaugurated on Friday 13 May at the University of Poitiers, the answer is to use biomass, a source of renewable carbon, as raw material. Set up by the CNRS with the support of the Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes region to the tune of M€ 1.165, INCREASE is a public-private collaborative network dedicated to eco-design and renewable resources. At present it brings together around 200 researchers from eight research laboratories, as well as players in various sectors of the chemical industry including cosmetics, agrifood and detergents. Benefiting from the synergy between research and industry, the network aims to carry out cutting-edge research while meeting the challenge of placing sustainable products and processes on the French and world markets. INCREASE also aims to become a worldwide reference network for the recycling of biomass by physical methods.

Focused on sustainability, green chemistry is quickly expanding, especially as it is now becoming economically profitable and competitive in a number of sectors. One of its current areas of development consists in replacing petroleum with renewable resources such as biomass. This is the challenge being met by INCREASE, a research network placed under the auspices of the CNRS and recently set up with the support of the Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes region.
This collaborative network is made up of eight research laboratories in chemistry, agronomy, engineering and the social sciences, most of which are located in western France. This first group will work in synergy with the R&D departments of a number of industry players, including multinationals and SMEs. INCREASE aims to become a worldwide network for research and industrial applications involving biomass. It will be able to build on both the scientific expertise of its university laboratories and on industrial know-how.
Another of INCREASE’s goals is to promote the education of young researchers and the dissemination of knowledge about green chemistry, via the International Symposium on Green Chemistry (ISGC, held every other year), as well as discussion forums aimed at the general public.
Any organic material of plant, animal or fungal origin can be considered as biomass. It therefore represents a huge source of renewable carbon on which an extremely rich and varied chemistry can be based. One area INCREASE will be focusing on is lignocellulosic biomass, such as wood and straw. Only non-food biomass resources such as waste and agricultural residues will be converted.
Energy (heat and electricity) is the best-known use of biomass. Yet INCREASE will focus on the manufacture of products of interest such as surfactants, polymers, solvents and aromas. Such products are used in a host of industrial sectors ranging from cosmetics and materials to pharmaceuticals and food. For biomass contains a large number of important molecules, such as sugars, oils, aromatic compounds and amino acids, that can be separated and converted by today’s chemists. The purpose here is not to produce compounds or materials similar to those already on the market, but rather to synthesize renewable products with better performance than those manufactured from fossil resources.

List of the eight laboratories belonging to INCREASE:
- Institut de Chimie des Milieux et des Matériaux de Poitiers (IC2MP, CNRS/Université de Poitiers)
- Centre de Recherche sur l’Intégration Economique et Financière (CRIEF), Université de Poitiers
- Institut des Sciences Chimiques de Rennes (CNRS/Université Rennes 1/ENSC Rennes/INSA Rennes)
- Biopolymères, Interactions, Assemblages (BIA, INRA Nantes)
- Laboratoire Littoral, Environnement et Sociétés (CNRS/Université de La Rochelle)
- Institut des Sciences Moléculaires (CNRS/Université de Bordeaux/Bordeaux INP)
- Laboratoire de Chimie des Polymères Organiques (CNRS/Université de Bordeaux/Bordeaux INP)
- Laboratoire de Génie Chimique (CNRS/Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier/INP Toulouse)

To :
- La biomasse, nouvel eldorado de la chimie - article in CNRS Le Journal (French only).
- The INCREASE website: http://www.increase-greenchem­