Green Plasticizers for PVC


There has been an increasing surge of interest in biopolymers; polymers produced by living organisms; i.e. polymeric biomolecules. Biomaterials suitable for conversion to useful polymer additives are available from a wide variety of sources, are renewable annually, are generally nontoxic, and are independent of fluctuations in petrochemical markets. During processing of polymers, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalate esters are often used as the main plasticizer.

Recent researches have established that phthalate plasticizers have a tendency to migrate from a polymer matrix into which it has been incorporated, into the natural environment. Consequently, ecological exposure has become eminent, where for humans, it has been associated with several diseases. Therefore, efforts to find a suitable replacement have picked up the pace.

Recently, Central Michigan University scientists: Professors Bob Howell and Ms Simone Lazar from the Center for Applications in Polymer Science explored a series of esters of bio-based 2,5-bis(hydroxymethyl)furan (BHMF) as a potential replacement for phthalate plasticizers. Specifically they showed that BHMF could be commercialized, owing to its excellent plasticizing capabilities. Their work is currently published in the research journal, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

The authors observed that the synthesized BHMF esters were fully compatible with polyvinyl chloride and displayed a good plasticizing effect, comparable to that of common phthalate plasticizers. In addition, they observed that the synthesized esters displayed a good plasticizing effect when present at 20, 25, and 30 phr. Remarkably, the ester were seen not to readily migrate from the polyvinyl chloride matrix, and their presence did not alter the thermal stability of the polymer.

In summary, a series of four esters of bio-based 2,5-bis(hydroxymethyl)furan that are fully compatible with the PVC matrix were prepared and fully characterized using spectroscopic and thermal methods. The most important observation in the Howell-Lazar study was that the presented compounds were seen to be fully compatible with PVC and showed exemplary plasticizing effects, comparable to those of common phthalate plasticizers. Altogether, the reported compounds may represent attractive, bio-sourced alternatives for phthalate esters as plasticizers for polyvinyl chloride.

About the author

Bob A. Howell is professor emeritus of organic chemistry/polymer science at Central Michigan University. He has over thirty years of experience in the area of polymers and polymer additives. Research interests include the use of hyperbranched poly(ester)s for the release of active agents, structural stability of styrene polymers, PVC formulation/stabilization, nitroxyl-mediated radical polymerization, and thermal methods of analysis/kinetics.

A current major focus is the development of nontoxic, biodegradable, environmentally-friendly flame retardants based on renewable biomaterials.

About the author

Simone Lazar completed requirements for the M.S. degree in Chemistry/Materials Science (flame retardants) at Central Michigan University and is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. materials program at Texas A&M University.




Bob A. Howell, Simone T. Lazar. Bio-based Plasticizers from Carbohydrate-Derived 2,5- Bis(hydroxymethyl)furan. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2019, volume 58, page 1222−1228.

Go To Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research

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