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Tough Reprocessable Thermoplastics from Biorenewable Sources (Sugars)

Novel thermoplastics derived from biorenewable stocks is considerably tougher than existing commodity plastics and can be easily degraded

Published: 24th November 2021
Tough Reprocessable Thermoplastics from Biorenewable Sources (Sugars)


Current commercial plastics are lightweight inexpensive materials with excellent mechanical strength, toughness and flexibility, finding application almost in every field of application. However, most of the consumer plastics are fabricated from non-renewable fossil sources, are non-degradable and the impact of their use and disposal on the environment is extremely negative. Bioplastics derived from sustainable feedstock have been identified as a great alternative but they often lack necessary mechanical properties, are brittle and non-flexible.

Technology Overview

The new polymers developed at the University of Birmingham are based on isohexide isomers, which are derived from glucose (a widely available sugar), have excellent mechanical properties (from HDPE to Nylon-6), can be mechanically reprocessed (recycled) or even fully hydrolysed to recover the monomers for further refabrication of the polymers. The recycled polymers demonstrate no loss of mechanical properties.

Blending of different polymers (IIPU ‑ isoidide polyurethane ‑ with IMPU ‑ isomannide polyurethane) achieves a whole range of mechanical properties without compromising on degradability or processability.

Table 1. Thermomechanical properties

The stiffness and ductility of IIPU is comparable to commodity polyolefins, such as HDPE.

Figure 1.  Stress-strain curve of IIPU, IMPU, HDPE and Nylon-6

IMPU displayed excellent recovery after deformation

Figure 2. IMPU - recovery after deformation

Figure 3.  Predicted seawater degradation values


  • Excellent adjustable mechanical properties
  • Excellent toughness (higher than Nylon-6 or HDPE)
  • Recyclable (can be recast at high temperatures)
  • Degradable by hydrolysis (monomers recovered and can be repolymerised into pristine polymer)
  • Degradable by seawater (equivalent to polycaprolactone or polylactic acid)
  • Recycled polymer retains mechanical properties
  • High thermal stability
  • Facile processing by heated compression moulding
  • Sustained optical clarity even at high strain (800%)


  • Automotive
  • Footwear
  • Consumer electronics casing
  • Packaging
  • Fuel tanks
  • Pipes
  • Frames and fittings
  • Gears and fixtures
  • 3D-printing
  • Furniture
  • Toys and equipment
  • Cable insulators
  • Boats
IP Status
  • Patent application submitted
  • Know-how based
  • Licensing
  • Commercial partner
  • Development partner