Alternatives for toluene and NMP – Food & Biobased Research Wageningen

Setting and problem

The hazardous substances toluene and nitrogenous NMP are used worldwide at a very large scale as solvents in for example paints, coatings and medicines. The EU is researching whether the use of these substances (hundreds of thousands to millions of tons annually), which are considered to be harmful to the health of people working with it, can be restricted.


In the EU-BBI project RESOLVE Wageningen Food & Biobased Research together with the University of York and a multinational consortium are developing safe alternatives for toluene and NMP with technically similar properties. When looking at alternatives, substances with a molecular structure similar to toluene and NMP are usually considered. Understandable, because the use of these alternatives in the current production process is relatively easy. Yet, it is difficult to develop safe alternatives working this way; the toxicity of substances is related to the molecular structure. RESOLVE aims to develop alternatives with a completely different chemical structure, avoiding the chemical functional groups that make toluene and NMP hazardous.


Researchers from Wageningen Food & Biobased Research and University of York have identified a number of promising bio-based platform chemicals which can be converted into high-quality solvents. They have been looking at carbohydrate rich residual flows at an industrial scale as source material, and found that for example sugar beet pulp can be used. They expect that the bio-based alternatives can be tested at pilot scale level in 2019 or 2020, and then it will also become clear if their production is technically and economically feasible.

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Daan van Es
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research
The Netherlands
  • Toluene
  • N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) (EC: 212-828-1 )
Sector / branche
  • Professional, scientific and technical activities
Solution types
  • 1. S – Substitution