The underlying catalytic process was developed by LIKAT chemist Bernhard Stadler as part of his PhD thesis. Researchers at the industrial and consumer goods company Henkel are currently investigating the potential of this bio-based material, for example in the adhesives industry. As part of their involvement in the EU "GreenSolRes" project, which is investigating the use of renewable raw materials in the production of biochemicals, LIKAT and Henkel are keen to drive forward the switch from chemical processes based on crude oil and natural gas to those based on renewable resources.

The researchers tasked with this challenge have successfully created a polymer that possesses a shape memory. This polymer can be rolled up and is designed to stay that way at temperatures below nine degrees Celsius. As soon as it returns to room temperature, it is said to unroll back into its original shape. Although shape memory polymers already exist, they only usually develop their memory effect at very specific temperatures, in most cases between 60 and 70°degrees Celsius. "The industry is sensing a growing awareness of climate and environmental issues on the market and is opening itself to bio-based products," explains Stadler. "However, they are not simply intended to replace fossil resources, but to deliver enhanced performance with new properties." According to Stadler, this adhesive based on levulinic acid can do exactly that thanks to the close collaboration with Henkel’s development department. It is also expected to pave the way for applications in medicine and logistics, among other industries, to keep goods cool. Both partners have filed a joint patent application for the material and the process. Henkel has also already begun manufacturing the product in kilogram batches for sample purposes.

Leibniz Institute for Catalysis (18059 Rostock, Germany)