Thursday, November 25, 2010

Polysulfone Dental Device Remedies Teeth Grinding Problem

For people who are suffering from a tendency to grind their teeth while asleep, Michigan-based Grind Guard Technologies together with injection molder Maple Valley Plastics, has introduced ‘GrindGuardN’ a safe medical device for the mouth. A 3-mm-high central power bar is positioned at the middle of the mouth guard that directs pressure on the upper and lower teeth, and is said to reduce the biting and clenching intensity by up to 60%.

The transparent injection molded 0.2-mm-thick outer shell of this dental device is made of Udel® P-1700 polysulfone (PSU) resin from Solvay Advanced Polymers, which is insert molded with a polycaprolactone (PCL) thermoplastic. To customize the GrindGuardN according to your mouth, it can be placed in a microwaved water for 90-120 seconds at 130°F (54.44°C). The white colored polycaprolactone turns transparent which signifies that it is soft enough to fit easily in synchronization with the front teeth. Polycaprolactone doesn’t deform or melt even at temperature up to 171°F (77.22°C). GrindGuardN, has received clearance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Researchers Train Bacteria to Convert High Percentage of Bio-wastes into Plastic

TU Delft Researcher Jean-Paul Meijnen has 'trained' bacteria to convert all the main sugars in vegetable, fruit and garden waste efficiently into high-quality environmentally friendly products such as bioplastics. There is considerable interest in bioplastics nowadays. The technical problems associated with turning potato peel into sunglasses, or cane sugar into car bumpers, have already been solved. The current methods, however, are not very efficient: only a small percentage of the sugars can be converted into valuable products. By adapting the eating pattern of bacteria and subsequently training them, Meijnen has succeeded in converting sugars into processable materials, so that no bio-waste is wasted.

Basis for bioplastics

The favored raw materials for such processes are biological wastes left over from food production. Lignocellulose, the complex combination of lignin and cellulose present in the stalks and leaves of plants that gives them their rigidity, is such a material. Hydrolysis of lignocellulose breaks down the long sugar chains that form the backbone of this material, releasing the individual sugar molecules. These sugar molecules can be further processed by bacteria and other micro-organisms to form chemicals that can be used as the basis for bioplastics. The fruit of the plant, such as maize, can be consumed as food, while the unused waste such as lignocellulose forms the raw material for bioplastics.

Cutting the price of the process

"Unfortunately, the production of plastics from bio-wastes is still quite an expensive process, because the waste material is not fully utilized," explains Jean-Paul Meijnen. (It should be noted here that we are talking about agricultural bio-wastes in this context, not the garden waste recycled by households.) The pre-treatment of these bio-wastes leads to the production of various types of sugars such as glucose, xylose and arabinose. These three together make up about eighty per cent of the sugars in bio-waste.

The problem is that the bacteria Meijnen was working with, Pseudomonas putida S12, can only digest glucose but not xylose or arabinose. As a result, a quarter of the eighty per cent remains unused. "A logical way of reducing the cost price of bioplastics is thus to 'teach' the bacteria to digest xylose and arabinose too."


The xylose has to be 'prepared' before Pseudomonas putida S12 can digest it. This is done with the aid of certain enzymes. The bacteria are genetically modified by inserting specific DNA fragments in the cell; this enables them to produce enzymes that assist in the conversion of xylose into a molecule that the bacteria can deal with.

Meijnen achieved this by introducing two genes from another bacterium (E. coli) which code for two enzymes that enable xylose to be converted in a two-stage process into a molecule that P. putida S12 can digest.


This method did work, but not very efficiently: only twenty per cent of the xylose present was digested. The modified bacteria were therefore 'trained' to digest more xylose. Meijnen did this by subjecting the bacteria to an evolutionary process, successively selecting the bacteria that showed the best performance.

"After three months of this improvement process, the bacteria could quickly digest all the xylose present in the medium. And surprisingly enough, these trained bacteria could also digest arabinose, and were thus capable of dealing with the three principal sugars in bio-wastes." Meijnen also incorporated other genes, from the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus. This procedure also proved effective and efficient from the start.


Finally, in a separate project Meijnen succeeded in modifying a strain of Pseudomonas putida S12 that had previously been modified to produce para-hydroxybenzoate (pHB), a member of the class of chemicals known as parabens that are widely used as preservatives in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Meijnen tested the ability of these bacteria to produce pHB, a biochemical substance, from xylose and from other sources such as glucose and glycerol. He summarized his results as follows: "This strategy also proved successful, allowing us to make biochemical substances such as pHB from glucose, glycerol and xylose. In fact, the use of mixtures of glucose and xylose, or glycerol and xylose, gives better pHB production than the use of unmixed starting materials. This means that giving the bacteria pretreated bio-wastes as starting material stimulates them to make even more pHB."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scientists Manipulate Plant Metabolism to Produce Potential Precursor to Raw Material for Plastics

In a pioneering step toward achieving industrial-scale green production, scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and collaborators at Dow AgroSciences report engineering a plant that produces industrially relevant levels of compounds that could potentially be used to make plastics. The research is reported in Plant Physiology.
"We've engineered a new metabolic pathway in plants for producing a kind of fatty acid that could be used as a source of precursors to chemical building blocks for making plastics such as polyethylene," said Brookhaven Biochemist John Shanklin, who led the research. "The raw materials for most precursors currently come from petroleum or coal-derived synthetic gas. Our new way of providing a feedstock sourced from fatty acids in plant seeds would be renewable and sustainable indefinitely. Additional technology to efficiently convert the plant fatty acids into chemical building blocks is needed, but our research shows that high levels of the appropriate feedstock can be made in plants."
The method builds on Shanklin's longstanding interest in fatty acids - the building blocks for plant oils - and the enzymes that control their production. Discovery of the genes that code for the enzymes responsible for so called "unusual" plant oil production encouraged many researchers to explore ways of expressing these genes and producing certain desired oils in various plants.
"There are plants that naturally produce the desired fatty acids, called 'omega-7 fatty acids,' in their seeds - for example, cat's claw vine and milkweed - but their yields and growth characteristics are not suitable for commercial production," Shanklin said. Initial attempts to express the relevant genes in more suitable plant species resulted in much lower levels of the desired oils than are produced in plants from which the genes were isolated. "This suggests that other metabolic modifications might be necessary to increase the accumulation of the desired plant seed oils," Shanklin said.
"To overcome the problem of poor accumulation, we performed a series of systematic metabolic engineering experiments to optimize the accumulation of omega-7 fatty acids in transgenic plants," Shanklin said. For these proof-of-principle experiments, the scientists worked with Arabidopsis, a common laboratory plant.
Enzymes that make the unusual fatty acids are variants of enzymes called "desaturases," which remove specific hydrogen atoms from fatty acid chains to form carbon-carbon double bonds, thus desaturating the fatty acid. First the researchers identified naturally occurring variant desaturases with desired specificities, but they worked poorly when introduced into Arabidopsis. They next engineered a laboratory-derived variant of a natural plant enzyme that worked faster and with greater specificity than the natural enzymes, which increased the accumulation of the desired fatty acid from less than 2 percent to around 14 percent.
Though an improvement, that level was still insufficient for industrial-scale production. The scientists then assessed a number of additional modifications to the plant's metabolic pathways. For example, they "down-regulated" genes that compete for the introduced enzyme's fatty acid substrate. They also introduced desaturases capable of intercepting substrate that had escaped the first desaturase enzyme as it progressed through the oil-accumulation pathway. In many of these experiments they observed more of the desired product accumulating. Having tested various traits individually, the scientists then combined the most promising traits into a single new plant.
The result was an accumulation of the desired omega-7 fatty acid at levels of about 71 percent in the best-engineered line of Arabidopsis. This was much higher than the omega-7 fatty acid levels in milkweed, and equivalent to those seen in cat's claw vine. Growth and development of the engineered Arabidopsis plants was unaffected by the genetic modifications and accumulation of omega-7 fatty acid.
"This proof-of-principle experiment is a successful demonstration of a general strategy for metabolically engineering the sustainable production of omega-7 fatty acids as an industrial feedstock source from plants," Shanklin said.
This general approach - identifying and expressing natural or synthetic enzymes, quantifying incremental improvements resulting from additional genetic/metabolic modifications, and "stacking" of traits - may also be fruitful for improving production of a wide range of other unusual fatty acids in plant seeds.
This research was funded by the DOE Office Science, and by The Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

LCA by Toyota Tsusho & Braskem Concludes that Green Polyethylene can Reduce GHG Emission

Braskem S.A. and Toyota Tsusho Corporation (Toyota Tsusho) have concluded the joint study of life cycle analysis for polyethylene derived from Brazilian sugarcane (Green Polyethylene), and has found that the Green Polyethylene emits less greenhouse gas (GHG) when compared to petroleum-based polyethylene even if it is delivered to the other side of the earth.

The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan conducted the analysis under the collaborative study with the parties using the preliminary eco-efficiency study performed by Fundação Espaço Eco in Brazil (2007/2008), which shows that 1 kilogram of Green Polyethylene emits 1.35 kilograms* of CO2 equivalents of GHG when it is produced in Brazil, shipped to Japan, used by consumer as container and packaging, and then incinerated. Meanwhile, traditional petroleum-based polyethylene emits 4.55 to 5.10 kilograms in its overall life cycle. As a result, the study demonstrates that 70 to 74 percent of GHG can be reduced with the substitution of Green Polyethylene for traditional polyethylene.

For details of the study, Professor Masahiko Hirao and Assistant Professor Yasunori Kikuchi of the university will deliver a presentation at "International Congress on Sustainability Science and Engineering - ICOSSE11", the most renowned environmental congress held in Tucson, AZ, USA, on January 11, 2011.

Earlier this year, Braskem inaugurated the largest industrial-scale plant of bio-based ethylene with an annual production capacity of 200,000 tons to be converted into the same volume of Green Polyethylene. Toyota Tsusho will start distribution of Green Polyethylene in Asian countries including Japan after certain shipping time from Brazil to the countries.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nobel Laureates from Manchester University Give Graphene a Teflon Makeover

Professor Andre Geim, who along with his colleague Professor Kostya Novoselov won the 2010 Nobel Prize for graphene - the world's thinnest material, has now modified it to make fluorographene - a one-molecule-thick material chemically similar to Teflon.

Fluorographene is fully-fluorinated graphene and is basically a two-dimensional version of Teflon, showing similar properties including chemical inertness and thermal stability. The results have been reported in the advanced online issue of the journal Small. The work is a large international effort and involved research groups from China, the Netherlands, Poland and Russia.

The team hopes that fluorographene, which is a flat, crystal version of Teflon and is mechanically as strong as graphene, could be used as a thinner, lighter version of Teflon, but could also be in electronics, such as for new types of LED devices.

Graphene, a one-atom-thick material that demonstrates a huge range of unusual and unique properties, has been at the centre of attention since groundbreaking research carried out at The University of Manchester six years ago. Its potential is almost endless - from ultrafast transistors just one atom thick to sensors that can detect just a single molecule of a toxic gas and even to replace carbon fibers in high performance materials that are used to build aircraft.

Professor Geim and his team have exploited a new perspective on graphene by considering it as a gigantic molecule that, like any other molecule, can be modified in chemical reactions. Teflon is a fully-fluorinated chain of carbon atoms. These long molecules bound together make the polymer material that is used in a variety of applications including non-sticky cooking pans.

To get fluorographene, the Manchester researchers first obtained graphene as individual crystals and then fluorinated it by using atomic fluorine. To demonstrate that it is possible to obtain fluorographene in industrial quantities, the researchers also fluorinated graphene powder and obtained fluorographene paper.

Fluorographene turned out to be a high-quality insulator which does not react with other chemicals and can sustain high temperatures even in air. One of the most intense directions in graphene research has been to open a gap in graphene's electronic spectrum, that is, to make a semiconductor out of metallic graphene. This should allow many applications in electronics. Fluorographene is found to be a wide gap semiconductor and is optically transparent for visible light, unlike graphene that is a semimetal.

Professor Geim said: "Electronic quality of fluorographene has to be improved before speaking about applications in electronics but other applications are there up for grabs."

Rahul Nair, who led this research for the last two years and is a PhD student working with Professor Geim, added: "Properties of fluorographene are remarkably similar to those of Teflon but this is not a plastic. "It is essentially a perfect one-molecule-thick crystal and, similar to its parent, fluorographene is also mechanically strong. This makes a big difference for possible applications.

"We plan to use fluorographene as an ultra-thin tunnel barrier for development of light-emitting devices and diodes. "More mundane uses can be everywhere Teflon is currently used, as an ultra-thin protective coating, or as a filler for composite materials if one needs to retain the mechanical strength of graphene but avoid any electrical conductivity or optical opacity of a composite".

Industrial scale production of fluorographene is not seen as a problem as it would involve following the same steps as mass production of graphene.

The Manchester researchers believe that the next important step is to make proof-of-concept devices and demonstrate various applications of fluorographene.

Professor Geim added: "There is no point in using it just as a substitute for Teflon. The mix of the incredible properties of graphene and Teflon is so inviting that you do not need to stretch your imagination to think of applications for the two-dimensional Teflon. The challenge is to exploit this uniqueness."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

First turnkey CNG truck upfitted with vacuum body

Developed in collaboration with Vac-Con, the Freightliner Business Class M2 112V compressed natural gas unit will also be equipped with a CNG-powered auxiliary-mounted engine that powers the truck’s water system. Vac-Con provides combination sewer cleaners to municipal and private markets throughout the world.

Its combination cleaners combine high-pressure water and vacuum systems to effectively clean both sanitary and storm drainage infrastructure. Vac-Con tapped Freightliner Trucks to develop the CNG truck based on its ability to fulfill its unique specs and need for a turnkey chassis solution.

"There’s a tremendous green movement happening now, and our customers are looking to us to provide efficient products with alternative fuel options," said Tom Jody, marketing manager for Vac-Con. "From the beginning, the team at Freightliner Trucks had a genuine interest in this concept, and in its success.

The truck will include an Allison 3000RDS transmission for optimum performance and efficiency, which include patented torque converter technology that results in improved startability at the launch of the vehicle, full power shifts, and a better performing engine. "The CNG project was truly a partnership and we look forward to continuing our work with Freightliner to further refine this and other natural gas products," Jody added. Freightliner Trucks is a division of Daimler Trucks North America LLC, headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thermoplastic Robot Suit Makes Aged Body Movement Easy

For the healthcare segment, especially for aging population, and additionally for industries for disaster control, Bayer MaterialScience has introduced Robot Suit ® HAL® (Hybrid Assistive Limb®) that gives support to the human motor in the form of an exoskeleton. Japan-based CyberDyne developed and manufactured this suit which was displayed at K 2010 recently. The white plastic housing of the suit is based on Bayblend®, a thermoplastic polymer blend from Bayer. Robot Suit® HAL® is strapped on to human limbs and controlled via a computer that receives bioelectric signals from electrodes attached to the user’s skin. On the event of movement, nerve signals reach muscles, moving the muscoskeletal system consequently. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit moves the joints in synchronization with the limbs.

Carbon-Reinforced Ice Hockey Stick

TeXtreme®, a spread tow carbon fabric used to make ultra-lightweight composites, is incorporated in the body of the ice hockey stick from Bauer. TeXtreme® is fabric from Sweden-based carbon reinforcement developer Oxeon that is used to make Bauer’s new Supreme TotalOne composite ice hockey stick. The stick exhibits improved mechanical performance, and is based on two technologies: Oxeon's Tape Weaving Technology which uses tapes instead of yarn; and Tow Spreading Technology which include spreading a tow into a tape and then using these tapes to weave it into a fabric. Besides lightweight advantage, use of TeXtreme® has also improved the stick’s puck handling and pass-reception properties.

Toyota Tsusho Signs a Bio-ethanol Offtake Agreement with Petrobras to Produce Bio-PET

Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC) recently concluded a long-term bio-ethanol offtake agreement with Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras), Brazilian national oil company.

Brazilian sugarcane ethanol will be used as feedstock in a chemical ethanol project that TTC is deploying with a local partner in Taiwan to produce Bio-PET. TTC agrees to procure sugar cane based bio-ethanol of approximately 1.4 million cubic meters for 10 years from 2012 and the contract is approximately 70 billion yen. This contracted bio-ethanol is supplied to TTC's bio PET business in Taiwan. This agreement will make establish the first global bio-PET integrated supply chain including, procurement of bio-ethanol, production of bio-mono ethylene glycol, tolling business of PET, and marketing of bio-PET.

Petrobras foresees investment in the order of 18 trillion yen in the 2010-2014 business plan. Petrobras has affirmative strategy not only conventional oil and gas projects but also renewable energy including bio-fuel. This long-term offtake agreement is one of the actions to realize their strategy in the bio-fuel business.

This is also first major agreement for Petrobras. And it would establish bio-ethanol supply chain between Brazil and Asia. This agreement will strength partnership with Petrobras. TTC accelerate to expand renewable energy business and continue to strength bio-ethanol supply chain which contributes to lower-carbon society.

Suncor Energy Selects GE's Advanced 1.6 Megawatt Wind Turbines for its Wind Power Project

MONTREAL -- GE has announced an order from Suncor Energy for 55 of GE's advanced 1.6-megawatt wind turbines for one of the largest wind power projects in the province of Alberta, Canada. The Wintering Hills project is part of a new "crop" of wind farms being built across Canada with the help of GE's technical expertise and highly reliable wind turbine technologies.

"Winning this deal with Suncor illustrates how our wind turbine power enhancement technologies are making a difference for our customers' return on investment," said Victor Abate, Vice President-Renewable Energy for GE Power & Water. "Our proven track record in handling the most robust wind locations remains a key factor in our success."

GE's 1.6-megawatt wind turbine makes use of a range of product features - including 82.5-meter blades - to maximize power output while providing superior control flexibility and increased reliability with decreased maintenance requirements. The technology builds on GE's proven experience of its 1.5-megawatt turbine, the workhorse of the global wind energy industry with more than 14,000 units installed.

At peak operation, the Wintering Hills wind farm is expected to generate enough clean electricity to power approximately 35,000 Canadian homes.

The 88-megawatt Wintering Hills project is located near Drumheller, approximately 125 km (78 miles) northeast of Calgary. GE will deliver 55 of its advanced wind turbines to the site beginning in the second quarter of 2011. The project is owned jointly by Suncor (70%) and Teck Resources (30%).

"Alberta is rich in many resources that can be used to produce electricity, including wind energy," said Keith Triginer, GE Energy's newly appointed country executive for Canada. "We are working hand-in-hand with Suncor and others to make wind and other alternative energy sources a larger, more integral part of the Province's overall energy supply."

Demand Increases for Cereplast's Bioplastic Resin Post Italian Ban on Petroleum-Based Plastic Bags

Cereplast has announced a boost in the demand for its bioplastic resin within Europe as a result of Italian legislation banning the sale of plastic bags. European manufacturers are increasingly seeking out plastic alternatives, including bioplastic blown film, to prepare for and comply with the legislation that goes in to effect in January 2011.
Cereplast announced earlier this year that it entered into a multi-million dollar agreement with RI.ME. Masterbatch (RI.ME.), a European supplier of colorized resin used in the manufacturing of plastics. Under the terms of the contract, Cereplast supplies its Compostable 3000 film grade for use in RI.ME.'s masterbatching processes for the production of items such as carry out bags and compostable trash bags. Since September 2010, Cereplast has shipped approximately 200 tons of blown film resin to RI.ME. each month to support customer demand for an alternative to petroleum-based plastics. RI.ME. increased their initial monthly order in November and Cereplast expects shipments will double by the end of the year, reaching approximately 1,000 tons per month by the second quarter of 2011.
"The movement to ban the use of petroleum-based plastic bags across the globe is beginning to have a strong impact on the growth of the bioplastics industry and, thereby, boosting demand for Cereplast resin in Europe," said Frederic Scheer, CEO and Chairman of Cereplast. "With over 60 to 100 million barrels of oil used each year for the manufacturing of plastic bags, European countries are passing legislation aimed at reducing the use of oil in the production process as an effort to preserve and protect the environment."
Scheer continued, "With the opening of our Seymour plant earlier this year, we have increased our manufacturing capacity and efficiency and are confident we can support the growth we anticipate for the remainder of this year and into 2011. Based on our current shipments, we are reiterating our revenue guidance of between $8 to $10 million for the 2010 fiscal year."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Natural gas on the rise

"Commercial vehicles: efficient, flexible, future-proof” was the motto of the IAA event, held in Hanover during the last week of September, at which over 1700 exhibitors presented more than 272 world premieres. The auto show featured a large number of natural gas vans, buses and trucks as the NGVs represent a great potential in the commercial vehicle sector as more and more companies are looking for affordable alternatives.
At the Fiat stand, the focus was on Natural Power models. In addition to the German premiere of the 136-hp Fiat Doblò, the gas variants of the Fiorino and Ducato were also on display. VW focussed on the completely revised Caddy, which utilises the tried and tested natural gas engine from its predecessor, while Opel presented the Combo CNG. Furthermore, Renault Trucks was represented by the "Clean Tech" label, a new brand that combines environmentally-friendly models with alternative drive systems such as natural gas. The Stralis CNG was also one of the vehicles presented by Iveco at IAA.

Volvo Trucks was the talk of this year’s IAA with its Volvo FM. The truck’s 13-liter engine is special in that it can be run on biogas as well as diesel, thus taking advantage of both technologies, according the Swedish OEM. Moreover, efficiency has been increased by 30 to 40 percent compared to previous gas engines.

A world-first was on display at the stand of MBtech, a Mercedes Benz subsidiary. In the "Reporter" concept study a natural gas engine and an electric motor were combined in a plug-in full-hybrid solution. Both engines can operate independently. Of special interest to local authorities was the concept study presented by Hako, who displayed a Fumo fitted with an Iveco natural gas engine. This 3-litre engine produces 100 kW or 136 hp, and meets the EEV exhaust standard.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Coca-Cola trials LBM for use in delivery vehicles

The soft drinks company is running tests of a 21-tonne Iveco Stralis vehicle run on liquid biomethane, which is produced by Gasrec. The fuel is created by extracting naturally occurring methane from organic waste in landfill sites.

Gasrec’s fuel is now being used by major household names in the UK, including Waitrose (which announced in August 2010 that it will run an initial five home delivery vehicles on LBM); Sainsbury’s (which uses Gasrec’s liquid biomethane for a number of its dual-fuel vehicles); and Tesco which runs 25 home delivery vehicles on the fuel.

Richard Lilleystone, CEO of Gasrec, stated: “Some of the biggest companies in the world are showing a real commitment to reducing CO2. Transport is often the biggest problem for them. But now, there is a real sustainable alternative to diesel for fleet vehicles. The performance of biomethane in vehicles far outstrips that of electricity. We hope that this step will be the beginning of a larger deployment for Coca-Cola Enterprises. It is apparent that growing numbers of like-minded organisations are electing to use biomethane as a fuel of choice which is good news for the environment and for local air quality”.

Liquid biomethane reduces CO2, gives a much higher vehicle performance than electric vehicles and has a similar fuel consumption pattern to diesel. Refueling stations are being provided to CCE’s Enfield depot by Gasrec’s infrastructure partner, Gas Container Services (GCS).

The natural gas produced from biomass in landfill is then converted to liquid biomethane, has the lowest carbon footprint of all the renewable vehicles and is commercially competitive against diesel and petrol. The LBM is then used to fuel dedicated gas-powered or duel-fuel vehicles.

Monday, November 1, 2010

PMMA-Based Racing Car Windshield

In an effort to provide light-weight and reliable protection to cars, Evonik’s PLEXIGLAS® polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) is now used to make windshield in RED Motorsport’s Lotus Exige race car. Stone chip resistance in these windshields is claimed to be better than glass-made windshield. PMMA also reduces the weight of the windshield by as much as 40 percent, yet provide rigidity, transparency, acoustic properties and high UV and weathering resistance.

The material is said to have a lower infrared transmission than glass which consequently helps keeping the passenger compartment comfortably cooler. This aside, PMMA is also been used in side and rear windows, roof panels, and more. Lotus Exige body parts made of CFK and ROHACELL® structural foam and plastic charge air ducts were fitted in the car engine.