TerPa – Terpenes as building blocks for biobased polyamides

Lactams from waste streams of paper production

© LI CHAOSHU/shutterstock
Paper production.

This project aims to demonstrate a possible solution en route to a biobased economy, as expected by the German Sustainability Strategy or the National Research Strategy Bioeconomy 2030.

The project focuses on a by-product of the paper industry, namely, the monoterpene 3-carene. For the conversion of 3-carene to a new bicyclic monomer for polyamides, a technical procedure has to be worked out. The first step of the project is the optimization of the synthesis of the lactam based on 3-caren, which has been developed at Fraunhofer IGB with emphasis on to scalability and cost-effectiveness. It also includes the development of a purification method which makes it possible to prepare the target product with purities sufficient for subsequent polymerization. The optimized synthesis will be performed in a larger reactor with a volume of 4 liters in order to deliver data for a further scale-up to a pilot plant scale with a volume of 20 liters at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. Here, sufficient amounts of the 3-carene-based lactam will be produced in order to supply the industrial partners with product samples.

The novel monomer will then to be polymerized to homo- and copolyamides and characterized by polymer-physical methods. This results will provide much needed information on these new polyamides and thereby highlightening its possible area of application. The feasibility of the anionic polymerization of the 3-carene-based lactam has already been demonstrated and is to be optimized further as a part of this project. Finally, we will investigate how the results can be transferred to a commercially more important hydrolytic polymerization.


A research team from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) led by chemist Volker Sieber has developed a new polyamide family which can be produced from a byproduct of cellulose production – a successful example for a more sustainable economy with bio-based materials.

The work was published in Nature Communications:

Biobased Chiral Semi-Crystalline or Amorphous High-Performance Polyamides and their Scalable Stereoselective Synthesis

Paul N. Stockmann, Daniel Van Opdenbosch, Alexander Poethig, Dominik L. Pastoetter, Moritz Hoehenberger, Sebastian Lessig, Johannes Raab, Marion Woelbing, Claudia Falcke, Malte Winnacker, Cordt Zollfrank, Harald Strittmatter, Volker Sieber.

Nature Communications 24.01.2020 – DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-14361-6

Project information

Project title

TerPa – Terpenes as building blocks for biobased polyamides


Project duration

April 2017 – March 2020


Project partners

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT, Oberhausen (Germany)
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Bio, Electro and Chemocatalysis BioCat, Straubing branch, Straubing, Germany (Coordinator)


We would like to thank the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and the Agency for Renewable Resources (Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe, FNR) for funding the project "Terpene als Bausteine für biobasierte Polyamide", promotional reference 22015916.

Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.