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Axens, IFPEN and Michelin launch research partnership on synthetic rubber production channel using biomass; €52M over 8 years

Overview of BioButterfly process steps. Click to enlarge.

Axens, IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) and Michelin have launched a plant chemistry research partnership that aims to develop and bring to market a process for producing bio-sourced butadiene, or bio-butadiene. Butadiene is a chemical intermediate derived from fossil resources that is used in the production of synthetic rubber. Some 60% of global output is for the tire industry.

In response to the need to find sustainable alternative sourcing channels for elastomers, the BioButterfly process will make it possible to produce innovative, more environmentally-friendly synthetic rubber. The bio-butadiene produced will support continued innovation in procuring high performance rubber for tires.

In addition to developing an innovative bio-butadiene production process, the partners are also committed to laying the groundwork for a future bio-sourced synthetic rubber industry in France.

Several other partnerships are also targeting alternate routes to butadiene, including (but not limited to) the LanzaTech and SK Innovation partnership producing butadiene from waste gas (earlier post); Cobalt Technologies partnering with two prominent Asian chemical companies for the development of a complete biomass-to-butadiene pathway (earlier post); the Versalis (Eni) and Genomatica partnership on developing a complete end-to-end process for the production of butadiene from non-food biomass (earlier post); and the Global Bioenergies and Synthos partnership on a direct gaseous fermentation process to produce butadiene (earlier post).

BioButterfly covers all research and development phases in the process—from scientific concepts, to the pilot phase and validation on an industrial demonstrator—by leveraging the three partners’ complementary skills and expertise:

  • IFPEN’s ability to conduct research on industrial processes and catalyzers.

  • Axens’ experience in the process engineering and marketing of new technologies for transforming renewable materials.

  • Michelin's expertise in developing innovative materials that make it possible to deliver more performance features in the same tire.

BioButterfly is backed by a €52-million (US$70-million) budget extending over eight years. The project was selected by France’s Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (ADEME) to receive €14.7 million (US$20 million) in financing as part of the Investing in the Future program.

Achieving superior performance will be the partners’ top priority throughout the project. Research will focus on five key challenges:

  1. Producing economically competitive bio-butadiene.

  2. Reducing environmental impacts, especially carbon emissions, across the entire production chain, compared with fossil fuels.

  3. Manufacturing high-performance synthetic rubber and adapting the process to all uses of bio-butadiene.

  4. Lowering investment costs.

  5. Preparing the future French bio-sourced synthetic rubber industry.



Excellent set of objectives. They (and many others) may find better ways to produce improved synthetic rubber and higher performance tires with less road resistance for future EVs?


What are they doing with the worn tires that we find in scrapyards everywhere. Is that a source of rubber. Most worn tire still have 85% of rubber left in it.

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