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Cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment of structural bio-adhesives derived from glycerol

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Abstract

Purpose

Due to increasing environmental concerns about petroleum-based products, the replacement of petro-products has attracted much attention in recent years. The purpose of this paper was to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of glycerol-based structural bio-adhesive produced through the reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerization process.

Methods

In this study, two pathways of glycerol production were considered in this cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment: bio-glycerol produced from biodiesel production plant and petroleum-based glycerol derived from petroleum refineries. Several impact categories were analyzed including global warming potential, acidification potential, eutrophication potential, and human health effects (both cancer and non-cancer). The impact of different allocation methods (energy content, mass value, and economic value) was also explored in this study.

Results

Our results showed that bio-glycerol-based structural adhesive had a lower environmental impact in general compared to petro-glycerol-based structural adhesive. Higher environmental impacts throughout the structural bio-adhesive life cycle were observed by adopting the energy allocation method. The key factors that influence the global warming potential were electricity sources and the product yield.

Conclusions

This LCA study provides useful information for developing sustainable biomaterials and processes. It is recommended to further explore the potential approaches to reduce the carbon intensity and eutrophication potential in the RAFT polymerization process as it is identified as the hotspot in the structural bio-adhesive production process.

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Funding

This study was funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agricultural, under project number 214-38202-22318.

Author information

Correspondence to Kurt A. Rosentrater.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Yang, M., Rosentrater, K.A. Cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment of structural bio-adhesives derived from glycerol. Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-020-01733-9

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Keywords

  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Glycerol
  • Structural bio-adhesive
  • RAFT polymerization
  • Allocation method
  • Sensitivity analysis