Bio-based aniline

A scientific breakthrough for greater sustainability

Within the chemicals industry, aniline has multiple talents. It is used as a base e.g., in the manufacture of medicines, dyes and plastics. Covestro needs aniline for the production of MDI, a main component in insulating foams. When it comes to the formulation of aniline, we are now able to derive it completely from renewable raw materials for the first time – a breakthrough.
“Deriving aniline from biomass is another important step towards making the chemicals and plastics industry more independent of the fossil raw materials that are in short supply.
Dr. Markus Steilemann, Member of the Board of Management responsible for all commercial functions and innovation.
Aniline can be derived from feed corn, straw or wood.
The industry currently derives aniline from benzene, a petroleum-based raw material. However, industrial sugar, which is already derived on large scale as a renewable raw material from, for example, feed corn, straw and wood, can be used instead. The newly developed process uses a microorganism as a catalyst to first convert the industrial sugar into a precursor. The aniline is then derived by means of chemical catalysis in a second step. One hundred percent of the carbon contained in aniline thus comes from renewable raw materials.

This breakthrough enables a clear improvement in the CO2 footprint of the production process, both with us and in our customers’ plants. The new process also brings direct economic benefits because a broader base of raw materials helps manufacturers to be more independent of the fluctuations of the market. And in a responsible way: the manufacturing of bio-based aniline does not compete directly with food production because the technology only requires a small cultivation area, even when it comes to powering larger plants.