Chemical companies are accelerating the development of resin for auto parts and artificial leather with the help of wood from the viewpoint of preventing global warming. Sumitomo Bakelite successfully changed lignin, which is currently used mainly for the fuel of boilers in paper mills, into thermosetting resin. The company reveled out wood and powder of tree bark and improved part of the molecule structure. The resin made of this material has the same performance as the conventional phenol resin. The auto parts made of this resin are being evaluated by auto parts makers. The company plans to commercialize the resin in 2018. Mitsubishi Chemical discovered a manufacturing process of increasing the efficiency of converting hemicellulose, which is one of the wood components, to a raw material of resin. At the present stage, the new material can be made for only several hundred grams in a laboratory per day, but the company plans to build large-scale equipment within the year to study the feasibility.
While shale gas production is expected to grow rapidly in the future, naphtha that is the raw material of synthetic fiber will supposedly be in short supply because oil production will dwindle. Consequently, the technology to replace oil with wood invites attention. Currently hemicellulose of wood replaces butadiene and lignin of wood replaces benzene. Each of hemicellulose and lignin accounts for 15-35% of wood components. New Energy and Industrial Development Organization (NEDO) launched a project to develop technologies to utilize every component of wood.
Company profile of Sumitomo Bakelite