Saturday, April 27, 2013

UA-led Research Team Transforms Waste Sulfur into Plastic to Enrich Batteries for Electric Cars

A new chemical process can transform waste sulfur into a lightweight plastic that may improve batteries for electric cars, reports a University of Arizona-led team. The new plastic has other potential uses, including optical uses.
The team has successfully used the new plastic to make lithium-sulfur batteries.
"We've developed a new, simple and useful chemical process to convert sulfur into a useful plastic," lead researcher Jeffrey Pyun said.
Next-generation lithium-sulfur, or Li-S, batteries will be better for electric and hybrid cars and for military uses because they are more efficient, lighter and cheaper than those currently used, said Pyun, a UA associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
The new plastic has great promise as something that can be produced easily and inexpensively on an industrial scale, he said.

The team's discovery could provide a new use for the sulfur left over when oil and natural gas are refined into cleaner-burning fuels.
Although there are some industrial uses for sulfur, the amount generated from refining fossil fuels far outstrips the current need for the element. Some oil refineries, such as those in Ft. McMurray in Alberta, are accumulating yellow mountains of waste sulfur.
"There's so much of it we don't know what to do with it," said Pyun. He calls the left-over sulfur "the garbage of transportation."

About one-half pound of sulfur is left over for every 19 gallons of gasoline produced from fossil fuels, calculated co-author Jared Griebel, a UA chemistry and biochemistry doctoral candidate.
The researchers have filed an international patent for their new chemical process and for the new polymeric electrode materials for Li-S batteries.
The international team's research article, "The Use of Elemental Sulfur as an Alternative Feedstock for Polymeric Materials," was scheduled for online publication in Nature Chemistry on April 14. The National Research Foundation of Korea, the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the American Chemical Society and the University of Arizona funded the research.
Pyun and Griebel's co-authors are Woo Jin Chung, Adam G. Simmonds, Hyun Jun Ji, Philip T. Dirlam, Richard S. Glass and Árpád Somogyi of the UA; Eui Tae Kim, Hyunsik Yoon, Jungjin Park, Yung-Eun Sung, and Kookheon Char of Seoul National University in Korea; Jeong Jae Wie, Ngoc A. Nguyen, Brett W. Guralnick and Michael E. Mackay of the University of Delaware in Newark; and Patrick Theato of the University of Hamburg in Germany.
Pyun wanted to apply his expertise as a chemist to energy-related research. He knew about the world's glut of elemental sulfur at fossil fuel refineries — so he focused on how chemistry could use the cheap sulfur to satisfy the need for good Li-S batteries.
He and his colleagues tried something new: transforming liquid sulfur into a useful plastic that eventually could be produced easily on an industrial scale.
Sulfur poses technical challenges. It doesn't easily form the stable long chains of molecules, known as polymers, needed make a moldable plastic, and most materials don't dissolve in sulfur.

Pyun and his colleagues identified the chemicals most likely to polymerize sulfur and girded themselves for the long process of testing those chemicals one by one by one. More than 20 chemicals were on the list.
They got lucky.
"The first one worked — and nothing else thereafter," Pyun said.
Even though the first experiment worked, the scientists needed to try the other chemicals on their list to see if others worked better and to understand more about working with liquid sulfur.
They've dubbed their process "inverse vulcanization" because it requires mostly sulfur with a small amount of an additive. Vulcanization is the chemical process that makes rubber more durable by adding a small amount of sulfur to rubber.
The new plastic performs better in batteries than elemental sulfur, Pyun said, because batteries with cathodes made of elemental sulfur can be used and recharged only a limited number of times before they fail.
The new plastic has electrochemical properties superior to those of the elemental sulfur now used in Li-S batteries, the researchers report. The team's batteries exhibited high specific capacity (823 mAh/g at 100 cycles) and enhanced capacity retention.
Several companies have expressed interest in the new plastic and the new battery, Pyun said.
The team's next step is comparing properties of the new plastic to existing plastics and exploring other practical applications such as photonics for the new plastic.

Source: University of Arizona

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cobalt Publicizes Successful Completion of Biomass-derived n-Butanol at US-based CMO Facility

Cobalt Technologies ("Cobalt"), one of the leading developers of next generation bio-based chemicals, announced the successful completion of a production campaign of n-butanol at a fermentation scale greater than 100,000 liters. The performance demonstrates scalability by replicating the performance previously obtained at both the 10 liter bench scale and the 4,000 liter pilot scale. This scale validation is a crucial stepping stone to finalizing any commercial project, since scale up to a commercial fermentor is under 10x, well within industry norms.
With the results achieved during the latest production run, Cobalt demonstrated a clear economic advantage over petroleum-based butanol under current market conditions. Ongoing process improvements at commercial scale are expected to yield at least a 40% cost advantage.

"This most recent production run demonstrates commercial-scale metrics for Cobalt's biobutanol fermentation technology," said Bob Mayer, CEO, Cobalt Technologies. "Cobalt is on track to develop a commercial facility in Brazil and the one-tenth demonstration scale reinforces our confidence in the value and scalability of our technology platform."
The production run was carried out at a US-based contract manufacturing (CMO) facility with minimal modification to their existing aerobic system, highlighting the flexibility of Cobalt's anaerobic technology and showing the robustness of Cobalt's biocatalyst. The demonstration also provides important validation of Cobalt's ability to take advantage of opportunities to retrofit or co-locate with existing ethanol plants, whether based on sugarcane or corn, for the production of butanol. The demo supports attractive economics for these deployment models with further value enhancement by replacing food-based sugars with surrounding biomass.

Source: Cobalt Technologies

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

EU COMM Launches Bio Base NWE Project to Drive Growth of Bio-based Products in Plastic Industry

The European Commission has launched a new three-year project "Bio Base NWE" to support the development of the bio-based economy in North West Europe (NWE).
The €6.2 million (£5.35 million) project will work mainly with small and medium businesses (SME's) to help facilitate innovation and business development in bio-based technologies. Bio Base NWE will also provide training and education to help tackle the shortage of skilled professionals in North West Europe's bio-based industries. The Bio Base NWE partnership includes organizations from five different countries.

Dr. Lieve Hoflack, Manager of the Bio Base NWE project, said: "SME's have a vital role to play in Europe's journey towards the bio-based economy, which could be worth more than €2 trillion to the European economy by 2020." "Bio-based products are a growing area of interest for SME's working in chemical industry, agro-industry, plastics, fuels, food, textile and pharma industry. However, many SME's find it difficult to bridge the gap between newly developed research and the commercial market," she adds.

The Bio Base NWE network, representing many leading bio-based economy experts, will advise SME's from across North West Europe on how to develop new ideas into marketable products. SME's can get financial support to demonstrate innovative bio-based technologies at an independent, state-of-the-art demonstration facility in Ghent, Belgium. This flexible pilot plant will selectively invest in equipment for promising technologies to promote further growth. The partnership will also develop and deliver programs and tools for training skilled professionals for bio-based industries.

North West Europe is in an excellent position to take a leading role in the emerging bio-based economy. The region is home to a number of prominent research institutes in this field and has a leading chemical industry, including a strong representation of SME's which can provide a springboard for future development.
The Bio Base NWE partners are:
— Bio Base Europe international non-profit organization (BE)
— Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BE)
— Ghent Bio-Energy Valley (BE)
— Bio Base Europe Training Center (NL)
— REWIN/Biobased Innovations (NL)
— Cluster Industrielle Biotechnologie (DE)
— National University of Ireland, Galway, Competence Centre for Biorefining and Bioenergy (IRL)
— National Non-Food Crops Centre (UK)

Source: NNFCC

Sunday, April 14, 2013

DSM at JEC: Unveiled Styrene- & Cobalt-free 40% Bio-based Beyone™ 1 Resin for Buildings & more

DSM announced the introduction of Beyone™ 1, a new high performance resin system at JEC 2013 [Mar 12-14]. This revolutionary resin forms an integral part of DSM's continuous effort of delivering products that combine excellent mechanical strength and fatigue resistance, ease of processing, and reduced impact on the environment. The Beyone™ 1 resin is a BluCure™ Product, is styrene- as well as cobalt-free, and approximately 40 % of its raw materials are based on renewable resources. This resin is targeted at applications in building, infrastructure, marine and wind energy.

Composite components need to provide structural integrity, while being exposed to high dynamic loads and fatigue. DSM has a mission to deliver cutting edge solutions to satisfy designers and OEMs needs for superior strength materials that will ensure continuous functioning of their products.
DSM has been at the forefront of introducing new products and technologies that can meet the most stringent performance requirements and that are sustainable at the same time. The revolutionary Beyone™ 1 resin is unique in that perspective, combining the great processing characteristics typical for polyester and vinyl ester resins and excellent strength and fatigue resistance associated with epoxy resins.

The low resin viscosity enables easy impregnation and high processing speeds, saving cost and yielding high process output. Close to 40 % of the raw materials used for this resin are derived from renewable resources, diminishing considerably the ecological footprint and already clearing the way for continued supply in future when availability of fossil-based raw materials may be reduced.
"DSM has been able to develop this groundbreaking resin using its wide expertise in Styrene-free and Cobalt-free technology", says Robert Puyenbroek, Chief Technical Officer of DSM Composite Resins. "This new resin is 40 % bio-based and also demonstrates great performance, so we believe that we are redefining the standard for the industry both in performance and sustainability: truly a Green Revolution."
"For many years DSM has been living its Sustainable Innovation strategy, as we lead the industry in pushing the limits of traditional resin systems", adds Fons Harbers, European Commercial Director DSM Composite resins. "With the Beyone™ 1 resin we deliver true innovation to the market as promised, so together with our customers we can grow and create more value with composites".

Source: DSM

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Biome Bioplastics to Explore Bio-based Alternative for Organic Chemicals Used to Produce Bioplastics

The UK's innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, has awarded a grant to a consortium led by Biome Technologies; to investigate a bio-based alternative for the oil derived organic chemicals used in the manufacturing of bioplastics.
The research will be undertaken by the group's bioplastic division Biome Bioplastics, one of the UK's leading developers of natural plastics, in conjunction with the University of Warwick's Centre for Biotechnology and Biorefining.

The £150,000 grant is part of the Technology Strategy Board's 'Sustainable high value chemical manufacture through industrial biotechnology' technical feasibility competition, which funds projects that apply sustainable bio-based feedstocks and biocatalytic processes in the production of chemicals.

The Technology Strategy Board has identified the potential of industrial biotechnology to help the chemical industry move away from a dependency on fossil resources to a bioeconomy based on renewable and biological compounds.
Although bioplastics are often based on natural materials, some oil-based chemicals are widely used in their manufacture to convey properties including mechanical strength, tear resistance and durability. Deriving these chemicals from a plentiful, natural source could significantly reduce costs, expand functionality and increase performance in bioplastics, enhancing their ability to compete with, and ultimately replace, conventional oil-based plastics.
One of the most interesting sources of these bio-based chemicals is lignin, the complex hydrocarbon that helps to provide structural support in plants. As a waste product of the pulp and paper industry, lignin is a potentially abundant feedstock that could provide the foundation for a new generation of bioplastics.

Biome has partnered with the University of Warwick's Centre for Biotechnology and Biorefining that is pioneering academic research into lignin degrading bacteria. Biome is working with the Warwick team to develop methods to control the lignin breakdown process to determine whether these chemicals can be extracted in significant quantities.
"The environmental and social concerns surrounding the use of fossil fuels and food crops make lignin a compelling target as a source of chemicals", explains Professor Tim Bugg, Director of the Centre. "Often considered a waste product, it may provide a sustainable source of building blocks for aromatic chemicals that can be used in bioplastics".
The government-backed Technology Strategy Board's grant will support an initial feasibility project to isolate a chemical from lignin to replace the oil-derived equivalent currently used in polyester that conveys strength and flexibility in some of Biome's products. The production of such bio-based polyester would reduce the cost and further enhance the sustainability of these products.
If the initial feasibility assessment is successful, building on this work, Biome will explore the possibilities for deriving a wide selection of bio-based aromatic chemicals from lignin, further reducing cost and expanding bioplastic functionality.
"The bioplastics market remains small compared to that of fossil-based polymers", comments Biome Bioplastics CEO Paul Mines. "Growth is restricted by the price of bioplastic resins being 2-4 times that of their petrochemical counterparts. We anticipate that the availability of a high performance polymer, manufactured economically from renewable sources would considerably increase the market".
Industrial biotechnology is firmly supported by the UK government as a means of opening up new, emerging and established markets to develop less carbon intensive products and processes. It poses a significant opportunity for the UK's chemical sector to maintain and increase its competitiveness through the development of efficient and sustainable ways of satisfying our chemical and material needs. The total value to the UK of using industrial biotechnology is estimated to be between £4bn and £12bn by 2025.

Source: Biome Technologies

Monday, April 8, 2013

Evonik's VESTAMELT® X1333-P1 GFR PA 6 Replaces Metal in Mercedes' Hybrid Component

Effectively immediately, Mercedes, a leader worldwide in the manufacture of automobiles, will be using the adhesion promoter from Evonik Industries in several of its mass-produced models. Although it is used inside the vehicle and thus concealed from view, the VESTAMELT®-based hybrid component performs an important job. The aluminum tubing connects both A-pillars together and supports the entire dashboard — from the steering wheel to the glove compartment.

These elements used to be welded or screwed together with metal connecting plates, a stable solution, but one that involves more weight. By contrast, VESTAMELT® X1333-P1, a co-polyamide, covers the aluminum tubing and joins the holding brackets made of fiberglass-reinforced polyamide 6 of the individual components to the tubing by means of an injection molding process based on melt-bonding. When this adhesion promoter is used, component weight can be dramatically reduced by up to 20% compared to conventional solutions.

"Together with automobile manufacturers, we're developing even more applications worldwide for VESTAMELT®," says Martin Risthaus, the global business manager for Lightweight Design at Evonik. "Structural components or doors, for example, still have considerable weight-saving potential." Machine construction and the construction industry are also examples of segments in which the VESTAMELT® concept can be applied to hybrid machine parts.

An EU Regulation requires that the emissions values of all vehicle fleets be drastically reduced by 2015. Replacing metal with plastic is an especially promising way to reach this weight-saving goal. The less a vehicle weighs, the less fuel it consumes, and thus the less carbon dioxide it emits.

Source: Evonik

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Metabolix & Tianjin GreenBio Sign Heat Shrink Film Distribution & PHA Biopolymer Supply Agreement

Metabolix, Inc., an innovation-driven bioscience company focused on delivering sustainable solutions for plastics, chemicals and energy, announced that it has entered into a distribution agreement with Tianjin GreenBio Materials Co., Ltd. ("GreenBio"), a biomaterials company based in Tianjin, China. Under the terms of the agreement, Metabolix will distribute GreenBio's SoGreen™ heat shrink film in Europe and will be the exclusive distributor in the Americas. In addition to a distribution relationship, Metabolix and GreenBio have also signed a supply agreement for PHA biopolymers. Under the arrangement, GreenBio will supply PHA resins to Metabolix, which will extend the range and availability of the Company's PHA products.

"Tianjin GreenBio has developed a heat shrink film based on PHA biopolymers. This product complements our product slate aimed at film and bag applications and we expect will be of interest to customers in the U.S. and Europe seeking biobased materials and biodegradable performance," said Bob Engle, vice president, business and commercial development, biopolymers, at Metabolix. "With products and technology that are complementary, the distribution and PHA supply agreements mark a first step toward potentially working with Tianjin to develop additional PHA biopolymer products."

Tianjin GreenBio offers two grades of heat shrink film that is used to bind together items for packaging, shipping, and storage. One SoGreen product is designed to replace non-compostable PVC film often used to package boxed goods, software and other non-edible products. The other is designed to replace softer polyethylene films, also not compostable and often used for wrapping multiple items, often bulky and irregular in shape, such as packs of bottled water. The SoGreen heat shrink film resins (2001 and 3001) are certified by DIN CERTCO to meet the EN 13432 standard for compostable plastics.

"We are excited to work with Metabolix to gain greater exposure for our products in the Americas and Europe," said Dr. Lu Weichuan, chairman and president of Tianjin GreenBio. "Metabolix has extensive experience in biopolymers, and we look forward to working together to build the market for PHA-based biopolymer products."

Source: Metabolix

Monday, April 1, 2013

Zoltek, TCG Co-develop & Enhance CF Thermoplastic Products for Optimized Automotive Components

Zoltek Corporation and Thermoplast Composite GmbH of Germany announced that they are working together to develop and improve carbon fiber thermoplastic tapes and other carbon fiber thermoplastic products, based on Zoltek fibers and using TCG innovative process technologies, for structural applications for automotive and other industries. Co-developed carbon fiber thermoplastic tapes produced by TCG were on display at this year's JEC Composites Show.

These thermoplastic tapes, manufactured with Zoltek's Panex® 35 carbon fiber and using TCG's patented process technology, have the ability to be used as the primary reinforcement in structural parts or as localized reinforcement for injection molding applications. Strategic placement in localized areas in combination with injection molding processes produce low cost, structurally optimized composite parts with the potential to be used for seat backs, front end carriers, bumpers, doors, and other automotive components with complex geometries and high structural requirements.

With increased interest from the automotive industry in carbon fiber thermoplastic materials, Zoltek and TCG will continue to develop and improve these products and processes for expanded applications.

Source: Zoltek Companies, Inc.