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FURENPOL: synthesizing PEF, a bio-based polymer alternative to PET

Ampolles d'aigua de plàstic PET

Currently, within the polyester sector, PET is still one of the most widely used, even though it is not sustainable. FURENPOL, a new project funded by the MCIN and the European Union and coordinated by the CSIC in which the UAB participates, aims to study the development of an enzymatic process for the synthesis of PEF, a biobased polymer alternative to PET, and its subsequent recycling process.


The sustainability of plastic materials implies attaining a renewable origin and recyclable nature. Unfortunately, both conditions are far from being fulfilled by the current industry. In the polyester sector, PET [poly(ethylene-terephthalate)], one of the most common plastics, has a petrochemical origin. Happily, PEF [poly(ethylene-furandicarboxylate)] is emerging as a biobased alternative to PET. Moreover, enzymatic biocatalysis can contribute to the industrial and environmental feasibility of bioplastics with next-generation technologies for the synthesis and recycling of both building blocks and polymers. For PEF and other furanic polymers, esterase-type enzymes can be tailored for ad hoc depolymerization reactions. Moreover, oxidase-type enzymes are called to provide selective and environmentally friendly alternatives to convert HMF (5-hydroxymethylfurfural) from biomass sugars into the PEF building-block FDCA (2,5-furandicarboxylic acid).

FURENPOL combines the relevant actors to fulfill the main studies mentioned above in an interdisciplinary consortium including Research and Industrial representatives for both the Biotechnology and Plastic (synthesis and recycling) sectors. The former includes the CSIC coordinator (Center for Biological Research -CIB) with a large background in industrial enzymes, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) providing its supercomputational facilities, together with the company Nostrum Biodiscovery (NBD) that will provide its experience in protein tailoring, required for successful application in the plastic sector and biotechnology valorization. Then, evaluation of the above applications for the enzymatic synthesis and recycling of plastic building blocks and polymers will be performed by the Technological Institute of Plastics AIMPLAS (Chemical Technology and other departments) acting as a link with the companies UNEMSA (interested in furanic plastic adhesives), ACTECO (a plastic-recycling company) and the above mentioned NBD.

The group of Bioprocess Engineering and Applied Biocatalysis as well as the Fermentation Plot Plant of the department of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering of UAB will work on the optimization of both the enzyme production and the target reactions.

11 researchers in the laboratory in a group photo.Group of Bioprocess Engineering and Applied Biocatalysis of the UAB involved in FURENPOL (left) and Darly Concha Núñez, Ph.D. student in FURENPOL and researcher of the Group of Bioprocess Engineering and Applied Biocatalysis (right).

Marina Guillén

Group of Bioprocess Engineering and Applied Biocatalysis
Department of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona



Proyecto PLEC2021-007690 financiado por MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 y por la Unión Europea NextGenerationEU/PRTR

Logo of the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, UE, RTR Plan and Agencia Estatal de Investigacion

Logo of the FURENPOL project

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