Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Braskem Launches Sugarcane-based Polyethylene Packaging for Sun Care Product

The new bottles made from renewable raw material are already available at drug stores and supermarkets. The SUNDOWN® regular line of products, which uses groundbreaking technology for the sun care market, is now available at stores in more sustainable packaging. It is one of the few brands around the world to use sugarcane-based polyethylene in its packaging, which contains 60% green plastic and 40% recycled material, thus helping to avoid unnecessary disposal of solid waste. To find out whether the SUNDOWN® product is manufactured using this material, consumers must look for the "I'm Green" logo on the front and back of the packaging.
The green plastic developed by Braskem is produced from sugarcane ethanol, a 100% renewable raw material that is also used as fuel in flex cars. Using green resin not only prevents CO2 emissions but also removes CO2 from the atmosphere. For each ton of plastic produced, green plastic sequestrates 2.5 tons of CO2 released during sugarcane cultivation through photosynthesis. This is a significant gain compared to traditional plastic, whose production releases 2.1 tons of CO2.
During the 2011/2012 summer season, SUNDOWN® will avoid consuming around 100 tons of resin produced from petroleum a non-renewable source and avoid releasing the equivalent of about 630 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. SUNDOWN® is the only brand in Brazil's sun care segment to use this technology. It teamed up with Braskem in 2008 and since then has been working on developing new packaging made of green plastic.
"SUNDOWN® is a brand that develops products for consumers to enjoy the right measure of sunshine. The sun is associated with joy, fun, outdoor activity and nature and hence addressing the issue of sustainability by developing packaging that reduces damage to the environment reflects all that our brand stands for", says SUNDOWN® Marketing Manager, Juliana Sztrajtman.
The alliance between Johnson & Johnson, which makes SUNDOWN®, and Braskem is the result of their common commitment to sustainability. The green plastic is produced at Triunfo's petrochemical plant located in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, with annual production capacity of 200 thousand tons.

50 Tons of Waste Plastic = 90-foot Thermoplastic Road Bridge

With support from the Welsh Assembly Government, Vertech Limited, a relatively new start-up company partnered with Dawyck Estates, Specialist Bridge designer Cass Hayward LLP, Cardiff University’s School of Engineering, Rutgers University’s AAMIPP Department and Axion International to put in place the first recycled thermoplastic road bridge in Europe. Spanning the River Tweed at Easter Dawyck in Peeblesshire, the 90-foot bridge was built using 50 tons of waste plastic in just 4 days by an outstanding team from Glendinning Groundworks Ltd and 10 Field Squadron (Air Support), Royal Engineers.

Being made from plastic, the bridge won’t rust, requires no painting or regular maintenance; and is 100% recyclable. Vertech will also be manufacturing sheet materials using the same technology for use by the European construction sector as a replacement for plywood, MDF and laminates. With this unique technology, Vertech hopes that Europe would be able to convert a large volume of plastic waste into high performance and sustainable building materials, making better use of their plastic waste and avoid sending it to landfill or shipping it to China.

Monday, December 19, 2011

FDA to Issue Final Decision to Ban BPA in Food Packaging Next Year

The FDA apparently will issue a final decision next Spring on an interest group's petition requesting a ban on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging. This results from a settlement reached last week in Natural Resources Defense Council v. HHS, No. 11-cv-5801 (S.D.N.Y. 12/07/11).
FDA is agreeing to issue a final decision on or before March 31, 2012, settling a complaint by the NRDC that the agency unreasonably delayed a decision on its petition, which dates to 2008. In reality, FDA continued to gather data on the issues, and has been looking at taking what it has called reasonable steps to reduce exposure to BPA in certain aspects of the food supply. For example, the American Chemistry Council has supported restricting the use of BPA in infant feeding bottles and spill-proof cups used by infants.
NRDC didn't want to wait for the science, taking the usual pro-plaintiff, anti-industry position that all gaps in knowledge should be filled in with worst-case scenarios. Studies employing standardized toxicity tests have in fact supported the safety of current low levels of human exposure to BPA. (FDA has been consulting with other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (and National Toxicology Program), Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
And the interest group doesn't seem to care about the tremendous public health benefits that such products have provided. Any wide-spread ban of the product or litigation accomplishing the same result, may risk the public safety more than enhance it. Epoxy resins derived from bisphenol A are used to manufacture protective polymer coatings for the inner surface of metal food and beverage containers. This critical technology protects the contents of these containers from aggressive food products, thereby assuring a safe, wholesome, and nutritious food supply. Compared to other coating technologies, coatings derived from epoxy resins provide superior adhesion to the metal surface, greater durability, and higher resistance to the wide range of chemistries found in foods and beverages. These attributes are essential to protect the packed food from microbiological contamination, which is a significant food safety issue.
Canning might be the single most important innovation in the preservation of food in history. More than 1500 food items are regularly packed in cans, making out-of-season foods globally accessible year-round. More than 90% of food and beverage cans use epoxy-based coatings because of their strength, adhesion, formability and resistance to chemical reactions in the food and drinks without affecting the taste or smell of the product. They protect the food from the container and from bacterial contamination. They give canned foods their long shelf-life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lux Research Predicts Bio-based Chemicals & Materials Industry to Reach 19.7 USD B in 2016

Buoyed by consumer preferences, government mandate and corporate commitments, bio-based chemicals and materials will more than double capacity to 9.2 million tons, says Lux Research.

The bio-based chemicals and materials industry, carefully nurtured from labs to factories, has reached a tipping point and capacity will double in market potential to $19.7 billion in 2016, as its global manufacturing capacity zooms 140%, according to a recent report by Lux Research.
The global capacity for 17 major bio-based materials doubled to 3.8 million tons this year, but over the next five years will climb to 9.2 million tons, bringing critical scale to an industry poised to revolutionize the chemicals market, said the report, titled, "Global Bio-based Chemical Capacity Springs to Scale."
"Several strong forces consumer preference, corporate commitment, and government mandates and support are driving development in this space." said Kalib Kersh, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report. "For an industry with the scale of plastics, polymers, and chemicals, no business issue is as big as that of capacity. For bio-based alternatives to compete with petroleum, they have to match billion-dollar businesses producing at megaton levels," he added.
Lux analysts tallied up the capacity of 151 identified global facilities and captured their intended operational dates, products and capacities, and added 87 additional facilities for which it made conservative estimates. Among Lux Research's other key findings:
  • Bioplastics steal the scene but will slow down. From 2006 to 2011, bioplastics have experienced explosive growth of 1,500% to a current aggregate capacity of 470,000 tons, and a 10.9% share of all bio-based materials. Expansion is expected to moderate, though their capacity will still grow 57% from 2011 to 2016.

  • Cellulose polymers and starch-based plastics dominant. Cellulose polymers and starch-derived materials still rule because they are durable, strong and easily biodegradable: They've been widely used in high-performance plastic coatings, buttons and yarns, and even early LEGO bricks. However, their share of total capacity will slide from 45% in 2011 to 21% in 2016.

  • Consolidation ahead. By 2016, there will be consolidation both within sectors of bio-based materials manufacturing, and regionally, as leaders buy up technologies and access to feedstock. Momentum derived from existing capacity ethanol from sugarcane ethanol being converted to ethylene and propylene, for instance will influence regional specialization.

  • Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Evonik's PMMA Solar Fresnel lens Finds Use in Large-scale Concentrating Photovoltaics

    Experts estimated the world's installed capacity for concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) at 23 megawatts in 2010. The market research company GTM Research expects annual demand to rise to more than a gigawatt by 2015. Gone are the days of small pilot plants. Forecasts in particular underline the increasing importance of CPV.
    But a major prerequisite for building the solar panels is a supply of the required high-quality lenses. "We supplied PLEXIGLAS® Solar Fresnel lens parquets for over 10 MW of electricity from concentrating photovoltaics in 2011 already," says Uwe Loffler, who is responsible for the Solar Market Segment at the Acrylic Polymers Business Line of Evonik Industries. "That proved we can produce lenses for multi-megawatt projects."
    PLEXIGLAS® is used for the primary lenses in the solar panels. These high-quality lens parquets can be supplied with an edge length in excess of one meter. Customers have confirmed the optical efficiency of over 87%. The key properties in this respect are high light transmission and the outstandingly accurate mold surface reproduction of the high-precision Fresnel structures. Added to this is the longevity of the material that retains its excellent transparency even in permanent use.
    Evonik Industries is a worldwide manufacturer of PMMA products sold under the PLEXIGLAS® trademark on the European, Asian, African and Australian continents and under the trademark ACRYLITE® in the Americas.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Arizona Researchers to Widen Methods for Producing Bio-based Styrene

    Styrene is one of the major building-block chemicals used to make many of the rubbery polymers and plastic materials we use today. More than 6 billion tons of it is manufactured each year in the United States alone, most of which goes into producing insulating materials, automobile tires, footwear, medical devices and hundreds of other widely used products. The problem is that all styrene is currently derived from a dwindling resource petroleum and its production requires one of the most energy-intensive processes in the petrochemical manufacturing industry. More than three metric tons of steam is necessary to produce just one metric ton of styrene. That excessive energy consumption also produces significant amounts of carbon dioxide, contributing to the detrimental buildup of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere.

    At Arizona State University, David Nielsen and Rebekah McKenna are seeking ways to make styrene and other common petrochemicals using renewable resources. They want to produce materials that are more sustainable, require less energy to produce, and alleviate negative environmental impacts when they are manufactured. Nielsen is an assistant professor of Chemical Engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transportation and Energy, one of ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. McKenna is studying to earn a doctoral degree in chemical engineering. They're experimenting with engineering microorganisms to act as catalysts for making styrene from renewable resources in this case biological materials, like sugars from plants.

    The bacteria they have genetically engineered for that purpose has drawn attention from peers in their field. A report on their work was first published in the international science and engineering journal Metabolic Engineering, and then later appeared in Nature Chemical Biology as a featured "research highlight". This past summer, McKenna was one of only a handful of student researchers selected by the Society for Industrial Microbiology to give a presentation at its annual meeting. Her report, "Styrene Biosynthesis from Renewable Resources," earned the conference's Best Student Oral Presentation award. "What we've done is create a new metabolic pathway," Nielsen explains. "We've found the particular genes and enzymes required to achieve the necessary chemistry, and we have strung them together in a way that enables our engineered bacteria to function as a sort of biological catalyst. In this way the cells can perform all of the biochemical reactions required to convert sugars like glucose into styrene".
    He and McKenna are doing what he describes as building "microscopic microbial chemical factories," designed to synthesize the raw ingredients required to make products with characteristics identical to those that in the past have been derived only from petroleum. If that is achieved, it could be possible for these chemicals produced from renewable materials to "plug directly into existing infrastructure, and be ready to use in current manufacturing systems that provide many of the products we use every day," Nielsen says.

    The next leap a particularly challenging one involves further improving the bacteria and scaling up the process to where styrene yields can be produced from renewable resources in as economically viable a way as styrene made from petroleum. Nielsen sees potential for his and McKenna's research to contribute to engineering efforts to develop other commonly used chemicals, fuels, and materials from renewable resources that would "create whole new markets for renewable biochemicals and biopolymers". At the very least, "we hope to be able to develop viable renewable alternatives for the bio-plastics industry," he says. "From there, we might be able to begin making all sorts of new products from renewable, biological materials," including new kinds of fuels.

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Molecular Solar's Organic Photovoltaics Used for Charging Electronic Device Shines at Lord Stafford Awards

    Molecular Solar is pioneering ultra-thin, flexible solar panels that can be used in portable chargers for mobile phones and other handheld devices, allowing devices to be recharged without needing to be connected to a mains power supply. As well as being a convenient way to charge electronic equipment, the technology will also help to reduce an individual's carbon footprint.
    The Lord Stafford Awards showcase collaboration between business and academia in the Midlands and Molecular Solar was recognised for its very successful partnership with Warwick Ventures, the University of Warwick's technology commercialisation company.
    Warwick Ventures helped set the company up in 2008 and has been instrumental in securing funding to enable Molecular Solar to translate the research done in the University's Department of Chemistry into marketable products.
    Most recently, Molecular Solar announced that its solar cells, which are made from organic photovoltaic materials, can now produce voltages of over 4 volts, making its technology suitable for recharging the lithium ion batteries used in many handheld devices. This means the cells are now ready to be developed for commercial use.
    Professor Shipman says: "Molecular Solar is founded on the strength of its partnerships with Warwick Ventures, the University of Warwick's Department of Chemistry, and other companies with whom we are working closely. We are delighted that the success of those partnerships has been recognised by the Lord Stafford team."
    Quentin Compton Bishop, CEO of Warwick Ventures, says: "Warwick Ventures has spun out more than 50 companies over the past 11 years and it is always a great honour to be recognised in the Lord Stafford Awards. We are delighted with Molecular Solar's achievement and look forward to working with them as they continue to grow and develop a truly groundbreaking technology."

    PolyOne Utilizes Sanitized's Antimicrobial Solutions to Produce Medical Device for Healthcare Applications

    PolyOne Corporation, a premier global provider of specialized polymer materials, services and solutions, announced an alliance with Sanitized AG, one of the leading producers of antimicrobials with over 50 years of experience, to provide innovative, customizable polymer solutions for specialized healthcare and medical device applications.
    PolyOne will utilize Sanitized® MedX antimicrobials in select formulations of WithStand™ Antimicrobial Solutions, which consist of active ingredients developed using proprietary technology that helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi on plastic surfaces.
    "PolyOne continues to align with leading global and innovative companies that help us better serve our customers," said Craig M. Nikrant, Senior Vice President and President, Global Specialty Engineered Materials, PolyOne Corporation. "This alliance gives Sanitized the benefit of PolyOne's expertise in medical polymer formulation and our penetration in the healthcare market. In turn, PolyOne gains from Sanitized's unique bacteria protection technology."
    PolyOne WithStand™ solutions are ideal for healthcare applications, such as minimally invasive surgical device housings, respiratory and anesthesia devices, catheters, hospital furnishings and medical packaging.

    Sequana Selects Evonik's PEEK to Design its Pump Implant for Medical Applications

    The newly-developed ALFAPump™ System from Sequana Medical Switzerland helps patients suffering from excessive fluid in their abdomen: the battery-operated pump implant is based on the PEEK polymer VESTAKEEP® from Evonik Industries and has received CE approval. It pumps the excessive fluid from the abdominal cavity into the bladder, from which it can be excreted by the patient in the natural manner. Up to now, the water has had to be drained using painful paracentesis during regular doctor's appointments. Patients with liver disorders, congestive heart failure and certain types of cancer are particularly affected by ascites. The new system consists of a subcutaneously implanted pump and a catheter system: one catheter connects the abdomen to the pump, while the second connects the pump to the bladder.

    The new technology is made possible thanks to the use of VESTAKEEP® PEEK, a polyether ether ketone which is particularly characterized by its biocompatibility and biostability. In contrast to metal, the ion content of VESTAKEEP® PEEK is virtually zero, thus preventing shift reactions with the body. What's more, the PEEK implant is considerably lighter than a comparable metal implant. The VESTAKEEP® PEEK iGrades are specifically suited to long-term use in the human body and can also be made transparent to X-ray on request, so that they cannot be seen on X-rays.

    "The ALFAPump™ System not only improves the quality of life for patients but also represents a cost-effective solution," explains Dr. Noel Johnson, CEO at Sequana Medical. Marc Knebel, Business Management Director at VESTAKEEP® Medical & Implants, adds:
    "The ALFAPump™ System is a perfect example of the many benefits of PEEK compared to metal in this field. Other areas, such as spinal implants, can also benefit from these advantages."
    The high processability of PEEK is a further advantage of its use: VESTAKEEP® PEEK polymer can be manufactured using either the injection molding or cutting procedures, thereby supporting freedom of design in the development of new implant technology.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    Teijin to Open CFRTP Pilot Plant for Producing Composites from Carbon Fiber for Japan's Automotive Industry

    Teijin Limited has announced that it will establish the world's first pilot plant for fully integrated production of carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) components from carbon fiber on the premises of its Matsuyama Factory in Ehime Prefecture, Japan. The new plant will feature Teijin's unprecedented mass production technology for CFRTP components, which significantly reduces cycle times required for molding composite products to under a minute, enabling rapid production of various prototypes and performance evaluation tests.

    Construction of the new plant will begin shortly, with operations expected to commence in mid 2012. The new plant will enable Teijin to further accelerate its commercialization of CFRTP components for mass-produced automobiles and other industrial uses. Capital expenditure for the establishment of the pilot plant will total over two billion yen.
    Teijin's proprietary mass production technology for CFRTP enables the integrated production of carbon fiber to composite products within one minute, the ideal tact time required by automakers for mass-produced vehicles. The technology, which promises to realize revolutionary weight-reduction, is expected to find a wide range of applications in addition to automobiles, where certain levels of structural strength are required. CFRTP components are also highly recyclable, as technically its thermoplastic resins can be converted into desired shapes when heated.
    To introduce this cutting-edge technology to automakers, Teijin developed an electric-vehicle concept car earlier this year featuring a body structure made entirely of CFRTP components and weighing only 47 kilograms or roughly one-fifth the weight of a conventional automobile body structure.
    Through the new pilot plant, Teijin aims to accelerate its market development and further its position as a global leader in carbon fiber composite products.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Global wind power set for steady growth to 2020

    Global wind energy installed capacity increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.9% from 74.1 GW in 2006 to 198.2 GW in 2010, of which 36.1 GW came online in 2010. There was a fall in annual additions in 2010 by 10.9%, however, as major wind markets such as the US, Germany and Spain were hit by the global economic crisis.
    The global wind power markets are expected to recover in 2011 with the huge order intake by major wind manufacturers, the growing Asia-Pacific region, emerging South America and Africa regions, steady European wind markets and recovery in North America, GlobalData says.
    The growing Asia-Pacific wind power market powered by India, China and other emerging countries such as Republic of Korea, Thailand and Philippines will continue to drive the wind power market as well as emerging South America and Africa countries such as Brazil, Columbia, Argentina and South Africa.

    China largest in 2010

    China was the global leader with a cumulative installed wind power capacity share of 22.6% in 2010, overtaking the US as the number one wind power market in terms of new installations in 2009 following the addition of 13.8 GW of wind capacity in that year.
    China has doubled its cumulative capacity every year during 2006-2009 and grew by 72.4% in 2010 after the addition of 18.8 GW of new capacity. Supportive government policies which include an attractive concessional programme and the availability of low cost financing from government banks are critical reasons for the success of the Chinese wind power market, the analyst says.
    It is expected that China will continue to promote wind power in order to reduce its carbon footprint and increase rural electrification.

    US comes in second

    The US is the second largest wind power market with a cumulative share of 20.3% of the global wind power market. Its share decreased by 1.4% in 2010 which lost the US its market supremacy.
    Germany is the third largest wind power market in the world with a share of 13.7%. Germany maintained its ranking in 2010 but lost 2.2% to competing nations. Spain, which is the fourth largest wind power market with a cumulative share of 10.4%, lost 1.4% in 2010 as it continued to face economic problems. The other major wind power markets include India with a share of 6.6%, Italy and France with a share of 2.9% each, the UK with 2.6%, Portugal with 2.1% and Canada with 2%.

    Offshore wind gains momentum from 2015

    The offshore wind market is expected to become one of the major market segments of wind power generation during the forecast period. Offshore wind power installations accounted for 1.6% of the global wind power market in 2010.
    The UK, Germany, the Netherlands, the US and China are the biggest offshore wind power markets in the world with a number of projects currently in planning and under construction. With an increasing number of countries exploiting offshore wind potential during the forecast period 2010-2020 it is expected that its share in the global wind power market will reach 9% by 2020.

    Vestas largest manufacturer in 2010

    The global wind turbine market is a consolidated market with the top 10 players accounting for 80.4% of the market. Vestas Wind Systems A/S dominated the global market in 2010 with a 12.5% share and a total of 4719 MW of new turbines installed. The company however lost a share of 0.9% in 2010. Vestas is the industry leader and one of the strongest vertically integrated wind turbine manufacturers.
    Chinese giant Sinovel Wind Group Co Ltd was the second largest wind turbine manufacturer in 2010 with a share of 11.6%. The company installed 4386 MW of wind turbines and gained a 2.3% market share. Sinovel is followed by another Chinese turbine manufacturer, Xinjiang GoldWind Science & Technology Co Ltd, which accounted for 9.9% of the market in 2010. The company installed over 3.7 GW of turbines in 2010 and gained a share of 2.7%.
    GE Energy, which was the second largest turbine manufacturer in 2009, slipped down to fourth position after losing 2.8% of its market share in 2010. The company accounted for 9.4% of the market in 2010 compared to 12.2% in 2009.
    Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica S.A. accounted for 7.5%, Dongfang Electric Corporation Limited accounted for 6.9%, Enercon GmbH accounted for 6.8%,Guodian United Power Technology accounted for 6.5%, Suzlon Energyaccounted for 4.8% and Siemens accounted for 4.6% of the global annual capacity in 2010.

    Consolidations on the horizon

    The major business strategies adopted by the global manufacturers for long term sustainability in the market are investments in research and development (R&D) to expand existing product portfolios to meet changing market needs, capacity expansions and setting up manufacturing units across regions to cater to local demand.
    Consolidation is on the cards as the US market is undergoing correction and the Chinese wind market is expected to stabilise during the forecast period. Companies have modest expectations of growth for 2011 as major markets have slowed down but are expected to pick up in the second half of year.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    ESPCI Researchers Develop Light-weight Thermoset Plastic for Demanding Applications

    French scientists have created a new lightweight plastic that is as strong and stable as other thermoset materials such as Bakelite, yet can be easily reworked and reshaped when heated. The team suggests the material could be used in many applications, from aviation to electronics, while being recyclable and repairable.
    Typically, the atoms in thermoset polymers are permanently crosslinked giving them excellent mechanical properties and solvent resistance. However, unlike thermoplastics, which can be repeatedly melted and moulded, thermosets remain fixed in shape once made and cannot be reprocessed.

    Now, Damien Montarnal and colleagues led by Ludwik Leibler at the Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution in Paris have created a thermosetting material that can be repeatedly reshaped like a silica glass using heat. According to the team the reworked material retains the mechanical properties of the original material.
    'These materials are thermoset organic resins but they can be worked by techniques similar to blowing and smithing hitherto available solely for metals and glass,' says Leibler. 'Compared with metal and glass, they bring lightness, ease of implementation and a wide range of hardness and extensibility. Compared to other thermoset organic resins, they can be reshaped, recycled, repaired and still present solvent resistance and good mechanical properties.'
    The material was made like a conventional epoxy resin by mixing a liquid resin, hardener and catalyst and then heating it between two hot plates. After complete curing, the material was cut and shaped in an oven or by using a heat gun. By applying sufficient heat, the material can be reshaped and remoulded. The team also demonstrated that it can be ground down into a powder and then remoulded or injected.
    It works because the material is able to flow when heated thanks to reversible exchange reactions by transesterification. These allow some of the crosslinks in the molecular network to change the topology of the material without breaking bonds in the molecular network hence maintaining its integrity as a solid and preventing depolymerisation. During cooling exchange reactions become so sluggish that the network appears to be a solid just like silica glass.

    It works because the material is able to flow when heated thanks to reversible exchange reactions mediated by transesterification. These allow some of the crosslinks in the molecular network to temporarily break which changes the topology of the molecular network while maintaining its integrity as a solid and preventing depolymerisation. The broken crosslinks then reconnect during cooling.
    'By implementing the concept of crosslink exchange they have created a novel polymer network with unique capabilities,' comments Christopher Bowman who investigates synthetic polymers at the University of Colorado in Boulder, US. 'It is similar to other covalent adaptable networks that exist but implements a distinct reaction mechanism that utilises a non-radical mediated exchange reaction to enable the adaptation process. This reaction keeps the material in its polymer state but allows for reprocessing and recycling.' Bowman expects the principle applications will be in healable and recyclable composite materials.
    'Possible applications include coatings, furniture, propellers and, more generally, any complex part in the fields where one wishes to combine lightness with mechanical and chemical resistance such as aviation, automotive, portable electronics, etc,' says Leibler. He suggests the new material, once reinforced by fibres, might even compete with metals in the most demanding applications.

    Toray Produces Fully Renewable PET Fiber Derived from Gevo's Biobased Para-xylene

    Toray Industries, Inc. has succeeded in producing laboratory-scale samples of the world's first fully renewable biobased PET fiber by using fully renewable biobased PET derived from biobased para-xylene from Gevo, Inc., one of the leading companies in renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels.
    Gevo has succeeded in converting isobutanol, produced from biomass by employing its own highly effective production method that uses synthetic biology, to synthesize para-xylene employing conventional chemical process used in commercial operations.
    Toray used terephthalic acid synthesized from Gevo's biobased para-xylene and commercially available renewable mono ethylene glycol (MEG) as raw materials, and successfully produced the PET samples by applying a new technology and PET polymerization in June this year. This biobased PET has exhibited properties equivalent to petro-based PET in laboratory conditions.
    Toray has also succeeded in the production of a fiber using this fully renewable biobased PET for the first time in the world. PET has one of the highest production volumes among petrochemical products in the world. Around 40 million tons of polyester fiber, for which PET is the source, is produced worldwide annually. Polyester fibers are widely used in our daily life as well as in industry, and it is one of the core products manufactured and sold by Toray.
    The success of this trial, albeit under laboratory conditions, is proof that polyester fiber can be industrially produced from fully renewable biomass feedstock alone. This is a significant step that would contribute to the realization of a sustainable, low-carbon society.
    Toray is planning to exhibit this laboratory-scale fully biobased PET fiber samples at Eco-Products 2011, which will be held at The Tokyo Big Sight in December 2011.
    Under its management policy that all business strategies must place priority on the global environment in an effort to help realize a sustainable low-carbon society, Toray has been promoting the development of biobased polymers while expanding the businesses related to biobased materials such as poly lactic acid (PLA). The expansion of biobased polymers is an important initiative central to the Group's Green Innovation projects under its new medium-term management program "Project AP-G 2013," launched in April this year.

    BASF's Tear-resistant Bioplastic Bin Liner Passes Test Under Real-world Conditions

    Leftover lettuce, old bunches of flowers, potato peelings, coffee grounds: the average kitchen generates lots of organic waste. This can be turned into nutrient-rich compost in an industrial composting plant, but only if it is collected separately in advance and that can be a bothersome and unhygienic task. Throw the leftovers straight into the bin and you will be confronted with a foul-smelling residue after emptying it. Lining the bin with a paper bag means liquid soaks through, the paper tears. This dilemma results in large quantities of compostable material ending up in the normal rubbish and subsequently being incinerated, using lots of energy in the process. Alternatively, biodegradable waste is disposed of in regular plastic bags, which must be painstakingly removed at the composting plant.
    Bioplastic Bin Liners
    Bioplastic Bin Liners
    BASF has a solution to this problem: the compostable plastic Ecovio® FS. In an industrial composting plant, this innovative material biodegrades within four weeks. Bin liners made from Ecovio FS are strong and tear-resistant, even if the waste inside is wet. Liquid from tea bags or fruit leftovers does not seep through reducing unpleasant odors and putting an end to laborious bin-scrubbing. Once full, the bag can simply be put out for collection with its contents.
    The plastic's properties first underwent extensive investigation in pilot projects at composting plants in Germany, Canada and Australia. But would the new compost bags pass the test when used on a large scale. To find out, BASF and its project partners examined the bags under real-world conditions. The study took place in Bad Durkheim in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, from April to June 2011. Around 65,000 households each received ten Ecovio FS bio-waste bags free of charge, and could buy more if needed. Consultancy IBK-Solutions GmbH was responsible for analyzing the compost. "The results were very positive," says Erhard Freunscht, the Bad Durkheim council member responsible for waste management. "Residents really took to the new bin liners, as was clear from the number of bags put out for collection. And after around three weeks, the bags had biodegraded a complete success from our point of view."
    The key to Ecovio FS's outstanding compostability lies in its composition. The material comprises a partly petroleum-based, compostable plastic called Ecoflex® FS, and polylactic acid made from corn starch. Polylactic acid, which is derived solely from renewable raw materials, tends to be brittle in its pure state. But when combined with Ecoflex, a flexible plastic is created that can be used to manufacture a variety of products, including bin liners. In the controlled conditions of an industrial composting plant high temperature and humidity, defined oxygen levels microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria break the plastic down into water, carbon dioxide and biomass. In other words, they transform the bag and the bio-waste into valuable compost.
    "Both components of Ecovio Ecoflex and polylactic acid, are biodegradable," explains Professor Andreas Kunkel, Head of Research for Biopolymers at BASF. "For a material to be biodegradable, it is unimportant whether the feedstock is plant or petroleum-based. What matters is the structure of the molecules. Because this synthetic polymer has been engineered for outstanding biodegradability, microorganisms can easily digest it." Ecovio FS's superior biodegradable properties are recognized internationally, and it conforms to all relevant standards for compostable and biodegradable plastics in Europe, North America and Asia.
    Bio-waste bin liners are by no means the only application. Paper cups can be covered with a thin layer of Ecovio FS, making them both waterproof and compostable. The same applies to shrink films for drink bottle packaging. And not only bin liners but also shopping bags can be manufactured from Ecovio. Agriculture, too, stands to benefit: by using biodegradable mulch films for their crops instead of conventional polyethylene film, farmers can simply plough it into the ground instead of painstakingly collecting it after the harvest.
    International demand for biodegradable plastics is on the rise, with experts estimating an annual market growth of around 20 percent in the next few years. And BASF, a leading manufacturer of bioplastics, has significantly expanded its Ecoflex and Ecovio production capacity to keep pace. In future these plastics should make organic waste collection much easier so more ends up as compost and less in landfill.

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    United States: Honda Civic Natural Gas wins 2012 Green Car of the Year award

    The all-new 2012 model – the only factory-built, CNG-powered car produced in America – received the honor yesterday. The prize was presented to Honda by the editors of Green Car Journal representing a diverse panel of environmental experts and automotive enthusiasts who annually select a single vehicle for its outstanding environmental performance.

    The six-judge panel on the Green Car of the Year jury selected the Civic Natural Gas from a field of five contenders,  including the Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i, Toyota Prius V and Volkswagen Passat TDI.

    "The Civic Natural Gas is not only a great vehicle, it also demonstrates Honda's commitment to provide a variety of alternatives to gasoline," said Michael Accavitti, vice president of marketing at American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "The Civic Natural Gas and the all-new Fit EV that we introduced yesterday at the Los Angeles Auto Show are the latest additions to a rapidly expanding family of alternative energy Honda vehicles aimed at cutting petroleum use and reducing our carbon footprint."

    The model’s engine produces almost zero smog-forming emissions and is the cleanest internal-combustion vehicle certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    All Civic Natural Gas models are produced by Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, LLC (HMIN) using domestic and globally sourced parts.  HMIN is the recipient of a 2011 Platinum Award for quality from J.D. Power and Associates.  In addition to being named 2012 Green Car of the Year, previous versions of the CNG-powered Civic have topped the "greenest vehicle" rankings of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) for eight straight years.

    Biggest Plastics Recycling Initiative for London 2012 Olympic Games

    As part of its commitment to help London 2012 stage a sustainable Olympic Games, The Coca-Cola Company is placing 260 new recycling bins in locations around the city centre. These bins will encourage people to recycle the 11,000 tons of waste produced in the capital every day - before, during and after the Games. Working in partnership with WRAP, Coca-Cola has already established 44 Recycle Zones across the country, and has plans to almost double this number by the time the Games commence.

    The process that follows the collection of waste includes the following steps: 
    1. The bottle gets picked up, squashed as small as possible and taken to a reprocessing plant
    2. There, the bottle is spun in a special machine to shake off dirt and a magnet removes any metal
    3. All the bottles are sorted by color and type
    4. The sorted bottles are ground into flakes, and the flakes are then sieved through to get rid of any discolored or contaminated bits
    5. These tiny pieces of plastic can then be made into a new bottle, ready for use.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Berkeley Lab research sparks record-breaking solar cell performances

    Theoretical research by scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has led to record-breaking sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiencies in solar cells. The researchers showed that, contrary to conventional scientific wisdom, the key to boosting solar cell efficiency is not absorbing more photons but emitting more photons.
    "A great solar cell also needs to be a great light emitting diode," says Eli Yablonovitch, the Berkeley Lab electrical engineer who led this research. "This is counter-intuitive. Why should a solar cell be emitting photons?  What we demonstrated is that the better a solar cell is at emitting photons, the higher its voltage and the greater the efficiency it can produce."
    Yablonovitch is the corresponding author of a paper describing this work titled "Intense Internal and External Fluorescence as Solar Cells Approach the Shockley-Queisser Efficiency Limit." Co-authoring this paper with Yablonovitch were Owen Miller of Berkeley Lab, and Sarah Kurtz, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
    In their paper, Yablonovitch, Miller, and Kurtz describe how external fluorescence is the key to approaching the theoretical maximum efficiency at which a solar cell can convert sunlight into electricity. This theoretical efficiency, called the Shockley-Queisser efficiency limit (SQ Limit), measures approximately 33.5% for a single p-n junction solar cell. This means that if a solar cell collects 1,000 W per square meter of solar energy, the most electricity it could produce would be about 335 W per square meter.
    Calculations by Miller, who is a member of Yablonovitch’s research group, showed that the semiconductor gallium arsenide is capable of reaching the SQ Limit. Based on this work, a private company co-founded by Yablonovitch, Alta Devices Inc., has been able to fabricate solar cells from gallium arsenide that have achieved a record conversion efficiency of 28.4%.
    "Owen Miller provided an accurate theory on how to reach the SQ Limit that for the first time included external fluorescence efficiency," Yablonovitch says. "His calculations for gallium arsenide showed that external fluorescence provides the voltage boost that Alta researchers subsequently observed."
    Solar or photovoltaic cells represent one of the best possible technologies for providing an absolutely clean and virtually inexhaustible source of electricity. However, for this dream to be realized, solar cells must be able to efficiently and cost-competitively convert sunlight into electricity. They must also be far less expensive to make.
    The most efficient solar cells in commercial use today are made from monocrystalline silicon wafers and typically reach a conversion efficiency of about 23%. High grade silicon is an expensive semiconductor but is a weak collector of photons. Gallium arsenide, although even more expensive than silicon, is more proficient at absorbing photons, which means much less material is needed to make a solar cell.

    "Gallium arsenide absorbs photons 10,000 times more strongly than silicon for a given thickness but is not 10,000 times more expensive," says Yablonovitch. "Based on performance, it is the ideal material for making solar cells."
    Past efforts to boost the conversion efficiency of solar cells focused on increasing the number of photons that a cell absorbs. Absorbed sunlight in a solar cell produces electrons that must be extracted from the cell as electricity. Those electrons that are not extracted fast enough, decay and release their energy. If that energy is released as heat, it reduces the solar cell’s power output. Miller's calculations showed that if this released energy exits the cell as external fluorescence, it would boost the cell’s output voltage.
    "This is the central counter-intuitive result that permitted efficiency records to be broken," Yablonovitch says.
    As Miller explains, "In the open-circuit condition of a solar cell, electrons have no place to go so they build up in density and, ideally, emit external fluorescence that exactly balances the incoming sunlight. As an indicator of low internal optical losses, efficient external fluorescence is a necessity for approaching the SQ Limit."
    Using a single-crystal thin film technology developed earlier by Yablonovitch, called "epitaxial liftoff," Alta Devices was able to fabricate solar cells based on gallium arsenide that not only smashed previous solar conversion efficiency records, but can be produced at well below the cost of any other solar cell technology. Alta Devices expects to have gallium arsenide solar panels on the market within a year.
    "The SQ Limit is still the foundation of solar cell technology," says Yablonovitch. "However, the physics of light extraction and external fluorescence are clearly relevant for high performance solar cells."
    Yablonovitch believes that the theoretical work by he and his co-authors, in combination with the performance demonstrations at Alta Devices, could dramatically change the future of solar cells.
    "We're going to be living in a world where solar panels are very cheap and very efficient," Yablonovitch says.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    Brazilian Designer Selects Ticona's Long Fiber Reinforced Thermoplastic to Design a Chair

    A new plastic chair introduced in Brazil is receiving awards for its contemporary look with a focus on features such as geometry, harmony and consistency thanks to Ticona Engineering Polymers and the exceptionally well balanced property profile of Celstran® long fiber reinforced thermoplastics (LFRT).

    Manufactured from a single mold, the IC01 chair by designer Guto Indio da Costa uses a glass fiber reinforced polypropylene (PP) Celstran LFRT grade from Ticona that offers design, processing and cost advantages vs. unfilled polypropylenes and acrylonitrile butadiene styrenes (ABS), as well as short glass reinforced nylons and polyesters. "In addition to the significant weight and cost advantages over typical materials used in similar applications, this Celstran PP LFRT offers high stiffness, strength, toughness and low warpage while providing wide design latitude, colorability and a much better surface finish out of the mold," said Simone Orosco, Development & Marketing Manager, Brazil.

    Celstran PP LFRT grades from Ticona offer several advantages:

    Weight and cost savings less weight at equal wall thickness

    Improved creep resistance resists compression and deformation from skin/cover shrinkage

    Improved impact performance reduces breakage during shipping, handling and assembly

    Improved notched impact strength better load transfer and predictable performance in cold temperatures

    Superior tensile strength higher tensile strength and elongation resulting in ductile behavior

    The Ticona team, including George Dini, sales manager, Brazil, worked with the Rio de Janeiro design house Indio da Costa and its Brazilian molder Pnaples, which is supplied by the Ticona distributor Tecnopolymer. The chairs are injection molded in various colors by adding tint concentrates to the base Celstran PP LFRT.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    SABIC's Low-moisture Absorbing PEI Replaces PMI in Aerospace Applications

    SABIC's Innovative Plastics strategic business unit is presenting the low moisture absorption of Ultem* polyetherimide (PEI) foam for composite aircraft structures. Ultem resin's low-moisture absorption is critical in that it helps address two major aircraft OEM challenges: reducing weight for fuel conservation and emissions reduction, and lowering systems costs while delivering equal or better performance than traditional materials. Low moisture absorption combined with the proven flame-smoke-toxicity (FST), dielectric, acoustic and thermal performance of Ultem foam underscores the pioneering work of SABIC in engineering superior, world-renowned thermoplastic solutions for the aircraft industry.

    "By replacing competitive materials such as polymethacrylimide (PMI) with Ultem foam, OEMs and tiers can meet their environmental goals and industry challenges, while lowering systems costs by streamlining processing and extending the application's useful life," said Kim Choate, Global Product Marketing Manager, Ultem, Innovative Plastics. "Investment in proactive laboratory testing is just one of the ways in which SABIC delivers ever-better solutions for the aircraft industry to improve performance and drive cost advantages across the board."

    Ultem foam products, available in three densities, are manufactured as boards for use in skin-core-skin composite structures. Applications include luggage bins, galleys and lower wall panels.

    Ultem Foam Outperforms PMI in Hot, Humid Conditions:

    Testing involved exposing Ultem foam and PMI foam boards to elevated heat (70C/158F) and humidity (85 percent relative humidity) in an environmental chamber. Test results demonstrated that the Ultem foam absorbed less than 0.5 percent moisture by weight at 1,000 hours. In contrast, PMI absorbed five to six percent moisture by weight at just 150 hours and maintained those results through 1,000 hours.
    Weight gain from moisture absorption adds to the overall weight of the aircraft, adversely affecting fuel consumption and emissions. On average, an aircraft will burn about 0.03 kg (0,06 lbs) of fuel per hour for each kilogram (2.2 lbs) carried on board. Given that the total commercial fleet flies about 57 million hours per year, cutting one kilogram per flight can save roughly 1,700 tons of fuel and 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
    In addition, moisture absorption itself can have a disruptive effect on electronics (interference) and may cause condensation on sensitive areas of the interior. The cycle of absorption and drying that occurs as the aircraft travels through different environmental conditions also has the potential to cause delamination of a composite structure and can distort the dimensions of a part. Such results can lead to more-frequent repairs and downtime.

    Ultem Foam Avoids Time and Cost of Drying Boards:

    Another important benefit of Ultem foam's outstanding low moisture absorption occurs during processing. Often, PMI foam boards must be conditioned (dried and/or stored in a special area) before they can be machined, compression molded or thermoformed. This extra step adds time, costs and overhead to the process. Ultem foam avoids this scenario. Further, PMI may have to undergo a multi-step annealing process. In addition, Ultem foam is compatible with metals and thermoset laminate materials, potentially eliminating adhesives and other secondary operations that are common to the aircraft industry.
    Ultem foam has a density of 10 to 30 times less than the traditional resin. It exhibits the outstanding FST performance of Ultem resin (it meets Ohio State University (OSU) performance levels below 50/50) and offers excellent dielectric and acoustic properties, including demonstrated noise reduction coefficients of greater than 0.3.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Scientists make human blood protein from rice

    Scientists at a Chinese university said Monday they can use rice to make albumin, a protein found in human blood that is often used for treating burns, traumatic shock and liver disease.
    When extracted from rice seeds, the protein is "physically and chemically equivalent to blood-derived human serum albumin (HSA)," said the research in the US-published Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    The findings could lead to a breakthrough in production of HSA, which typically comes from human blood donations.

    The demand for the blood protein is about 500 tons per year worldwide, and China has faced worrying shortages in the past.

    The rice method was devised by scientists at Wuhan University in China and colleagues from the National Research Council of Canada and the Center for Functional Genomics at the University at Albany in New York.

    First, they genetically engineered rice seeds to produce high levels of HSA. Then, they worked out a way to purify the protein from the seeds, gathering about 2.75 grams of the protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rice.

    When they tested the rice-made protein in rats with liver cirrhosis, a common condition for which the human equivalent is often used, they found it produced similar outcomes to treatment with HSA.

    "Our results suggest that a rice seed bioreactor produces cost-effective recombinant HSA that is safe and can help to satisfy an increasing worldwide demand for human serum albumin," said the study.

    The protein is often used in the manufacture of vaccines and drugs and is given to patients with serious burn injuries, hemorrhagic shock and liver disease, the researchers said.

    In 2007, a shortage in China led to price spikes and a brief rise in the number of fraudulent albumin medicines on the market.

    Concerns have also been raised about the potential for the transmission of hepatitis and HIV, since the protein comes from human blood.

    Large-scale planting of genetically modified rice fields that could produce enough seed for mass production of the protein also raises environmental and food supply contamination concerns, since rice is a major world food staple.

    However, the study authors noted that rice is a largely self-pollinating crop, pointing to previous studies that showed "a very low frequency (0.04-0.80%) of pollen-mediated gene flow between genetically modified (GM) rice and adjacent non-GM plants."

    More research is needed to evaluate the safety of the rice-derived protein in animals and humans before it can be considered for the market.

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    Body parts manufacturing: Future may be now

    CBS News)  
    Synthetic body parts sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but body parts that can be used in humans are actually being made and used. A medical professor in England has developed a new nano-plastic that has enabled a world first in organ transplantation and opened the door to "off-the-shelf" body parts. 
    CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips remarked that professor Alex Seifalian's work might well be the start of a whole new medical industry. While the technique is not yet approved in the United States, Seifalian's London lab is already getting body part orders from other countries around the world.
    Phillips, who recently visited Seifalian's lab, reported that you might think you'd stumbled onto a film set for a re-make of "Frankenstein" in which the synthetic parts are manufactured. Bubbling vats there contain noses, ears -- even a windpipe and trachea.
    But how are the parts actually made?
    Seifalian explained the breakthrough technique for manufacturing replacement organs happens with the help of a a special plastic that, Phillips noted, has the potential to change the transplant landscape.
    On his visit to the lab, Phillips asked, "So an actual living windpipe grows in a jar?"
    Seifalian said, "Exactly. So that's what's transplanted."
    There has only been one actual transplant so far of what's called a "wholly tissue-engineered synthetic windpipe." It was successfully completed in a Stockholm, Sweden, hospital in June.
    The recipient, Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene, from Eritrea, who had previously been diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer, is now recovering well.
    Beyene told Phillips, "They soon discharged me, and then I was feeling OK, you know, I was feeling hope for the future."
    The technique involves making a glass mock-up of the diseased body part and then coating it in a new type of polymer -- a rubbery type substance developed in a lab. Seifalain explained it's a special type of plastic with microscopic pores, onto which stem cells taken from the patient can attach and grow.
    Chemicals in a "red liquid growth medium" determine that the stem cells grow into the required type of tissue.
    Phillips said, "So basically, you're providing a scaffold -- a kind of foundation or form around which the patient's own cells then regrow the diseased body part."
    Seifalian said, "The cell remodels itself and becomes the patient's own."
    And because the cells are the patient's own, they are not rejected by the body's immune system -- the usual problem with transplants.
    And the trachea, Seifalian says, may be just the beginning.
    Seifalian said, "The heart is possible, but a more complex organ like lung and brain are more complex to build, but liver is possible."
    The lab is already growing blood vessels to be used in heart bypass surgery.
    But Seifalian shies away from descriptions that liken his work to the construction of the fictional character in Mary Shelley's book "Frankenstein."
    "We're not making (a) human," he said. "We're just making spare parts, human spare parts. You know, just simple."