Biomass can offset petroleum in $100 billion worth of polymers

By Lux Research | November 21, 2012

Biobased polymers have been largely limited to specialized niche applications, but a new analysis from Lux Research finds that the top markets for biobased materials are largely the same ones currently dominated by petroleum-based materials.

“Biobased material developers must aim for large, addressable markets, among which the biggest are composites and coatings, industrial manufactured intermediates, and packaging,” said Kalib Kersh, Lux research analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Bridging the Divide between Demands and Bio-Based Materials.”

“To meet expectations, developers must bring cost parity, offer more biobased drop-in monomers, and close performance gaps on temperature distortion and brittleness, as well as advance biobased polymers beyond their reputation as merely disposable,” he added.

Lux Research analysts examined the size of a wide range of potential markets to determine commercial attractiveness of 38 applications and 21 conventional and bio-based polymers. Among their findings:


  • Coatings offer huge opportunities. Coatings provide literally thousands of opportunities to substitute biobased raw materials—in many cases with significant improvements such as elimination or reduction of volatile organic carbons (VOCs) above incumbent offerings.

  • Biobased plastics are ideal disposables. Biobased plastics can be biodegradable, recyclable, and less energy-intensive to process, and thus are often tough to beat as disposables, with volume applications such as medical, flatware, cleaning, bags, liners, bottles and others.

  • Industrial intermediates represent the future. Industrial intermediate components target huge addressable markets such as electronics, building materials, automotive, aerospace, and consumer goods. New innovations are letting bio-based developers like Vertec Biosolvents and Crey Bioresins access these markets.


The report, titled “Bridging the Divide between Demands and Bio-Based Materials,” is part of the Lux Research Bio-based Materials and Chemicals Intelligence service.