Sonichem leads consortium to develop bio-based plastics for the automotive industry

A consortium led by sustainable technology innovator Sonichem has been granted nearly £600,000 in funding from Innovate UK’s Resource efficiency for materials and manufacturing (REforMM) programme to accelerate the development and production of renewable, cost-effective alternatives to petrochemicals commonly used in the production of plastics, resins, and composites within the automotive industry.

The CARMA (carbon-neutral agroforestry-derived resins to materials for automotive applications) project will apply Sonichem’s ultrasonic processing technique to automotive applications for the first time. The patented breakthrough approach converts sawdust, the biomass by-product from forestry operations, into high-quality lignin. This renewable material will then serve as the basis for bio-based platform chemicals, creating green alternatives to conventional petrochemical-derived materials currently used to produce various vehicle components.

The initiative is being undertaken in collaboration with technology innovation catalyst CPI, the National Composites Centre (NCC), Scott Bader, SHD Composites and Polestar. CPI will support scale-up of the Sonichem technology; Scott Bader will pioneer the development of high-performance, sustainable composite resin formulations; and the NCC, SHD Composites and Polestar will together explore the potential of these novel materials for automotive interiors applications.

The CARMA project aligns with the UK Government's focus on resource-efficient, sustainable industrial materials as it aims to significantly reduce the UK’s reliance on imported composite materials. The newly awarded funding from Innovate UK will enable the international consortium to establish a robust and renewable lignin supply chain within the UK and accelerate the formulation of sustainable plastics and resins that contribute to steering the automotive industry toward a net-zero future and enhancing the UK’s bioeconomy.

Adrian Black, CEO of Sonichem, said: “We're extremely pleased to have the backing of Innovate UK's REforMM programme for this strong industrial consortium. This funding is a catalyst in our quest to offer the automotive industry a sustainable alternative to petrochemical-derived plastics. With Sonichem's ultrasound technology and the collaborative expertise of our partners, we are set to make strides toward a net-zero future and strengthen the UK's bioeconomy.”