Which natural raw material can be turned, entirely or partially, into which product? Click, one after the other, on one starting material and one end product that you think belong together. If you have chosen correctly, we will reveal what lies behind it and how far these ideas have progressed. Let’s go!

Learn more about the use of renewable raw materials in our Creating Chemistry magazine.

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You've chosen all pairs correctly!

Raw materials

  • Chicory
  • Corn
  • Dandelions
  • Wood
  • Castor oil
  • Red Algae
  • Spider silk
  • Mussels
  • Glucose

Products

  • Pantyhose
  • Transportation
    packaging
  • Automobile tire
  • Batteries
  • Screw anchor
  • Lipstick
  • Medical suture material
  • Adhesives
  • Skateboard wheels

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The right answers:

Chicory ‐‐> Pantyhose

  • Chicory
  • Pantyhose

Researchers from the University of Hohenheim, Germany, have now succeeded in obtaining a renewable raw material for the production of synthetics from chicory roots. The hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) derived from that vegetable waste can be processed to make nylon, perlon, or polyester. Around 800,000 metric tons of waste are generated in the European chicory harvest every year, because only the leaves are eaten, while the roots, until now, have been thrown away. However, it will still take several years before it is all ready for series production.

Corn --> Transportation packaging

  • Corn
  • Transportation packaging

Many raw materials used to make bioplastics are of plant origin. For instance, the ecovio® bioplastic from BASF consists to a large extent of polylactic acid, which is obtained from sources including the stems and leaves of corn or cassava. One example of the use of ecovio is as a compostable particle foam from which transportation packaging for high-value and sensitive goods can be made.

Dandelions ‐‐> Automobile tire

  • Dandelions
  • Automobile tire

Dandelions on the wheel rim – the roots of the Russian dandelion have passed their first tests as a source of raw material for natural rubber. This is based on a joint development project by the tire manufacturer Continental and the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology in Münster, Germany, as well as other partners. We will probably have to wait at least another five years before the first dandelion tires hit the roads.

Wood ‐‐> Batteries

  • Wood
  • Batteries

Swedish and American scientists have succeeded in making more powerful batteries with wood fiber from trees. To produce the required nano-format cellulose, the fibers are reduced to about one-millionth of their original size and made into a foam material. The aim is that this will not only be especially robust but will also be able in the future to store more energy more compactly because of its three-dimensional structure.

Castor oil ‐‐> Screw anchor

  • Castor oil
  • Screw anchor

It looks green – and is also green in the figurative sense: the Greenline screw anchor from the Fischer company is made from plastic called polyamide, more than half of which is based on castor oil, a renewable raw material. The oil comes from the seeds of the castor oil plant.

Algae ‐‐> Lipstick

  • Red algae
  • Lipstick

Red lips from algae: some microalgae produce fat-soluble red pigments when under stress. This can be triggered by too many mineral salts in the water or excessively strong sunlight. These natural pigments are used by the cosmetics industry as the basis of lipsticks. Algae are popular candidates for the bioeconomy in general, as they require very little attention: because they photosynthesize, like plants, all that they need for growth is water, sunlight, and nutrient solutions such as nitrate and phosphate, plus carbon dioxide.

Spider silk ‐‐> Medical high-tech fiber

  • Spider silk
  • Medical suture material

Hanging by a silk thread: much thinner than a hair, more elastic than rubber and more stable than steel at the same time, spider silk has a lot in its favor. There is one problem, however: spiders are not suitable for large-scale production, because in a confined space they would eat each other. Attempts are now being made to produce these super-threads synthetically, with the help of bacteria. They could be used as a wound closure, a nerve implant, and a medical suture material. In addition, silicone implants, catheters, and stents coated with spider silk could prevent inflammation and rejection reactions. That’s all still up in the air: clinical tests are now the first step.

Mussels ‐‐> Adhesives

  • Mussels
  • Adhesives

The mussel is a miracle clinger: it remains firmly attached even with a wild surf raging. This quality makes it sought after as a natural adhesive – including in industry. Basically, its natural adhesive consists of nothing other than short protein fragments. The idea now is to use these adhesive proteins to develop new wet adhesives for fields such as dentistry. Research into this is in progress. At present, dental implants are anchored to the jawbone without adhesives.

Glucose ‐‐> Skateboard wheels

  • Glucose
  • Skateboard wheels

Since 2015, the market leader in wheels for inline skates and skateboards, the California-based AEND Industries, has for the first time been producing wheels in which glucose plays an important part. The plastic systems used contain a polymer called Polytetrahydrofuran (PolyTHF®), which also serves as a soft segment providing elasticity for sports and leisure clothing, for example. It is produced on the basis of butanediol (BDO), an intermediate that BASF makes from the sugar, dextrose, under license from the US company Genomatica.