Friday, August 28, 2015

Iowa State University to Start Biopolymer Processing Plant Worth USD 5.3 Mn

 Eric Cochran led the way, counterclockwise, from one 500-gallon industrial tank to another and then another. By the time he got to the 1,300-gallon holding tank at the end he had explained how Iowa State University engineers are producing bio-polymers from soybean oil.
And he was showing how, with support from an industrial partner, they’re about to ramp up bio-polymer production to the pilot-plant scale.

The research and development at that scale is made possible by a new $5. 3 million Bio-Polymer Processing Facility located at Iowa State’s BioCentury Research Farm just west of Ames. The facility was built by Argo Genesis Chemical LLC, a sister company to Seneca Petroleum Co. Inc., of Crestwood, Illinois. The facility was turned over to Iowa State University on July 31. It will be formally dedicated on Aug. 26. The target date to begin production is Sept. 1.

The huge tanks, the steel frame and all the tubes, pipes, hoses and wires connecting everything are a long way from the round-bottom flasks used by Iowa State’s Cochran and Christopher Williams to develop a process that converts soybean oil into thermoplastics. Those are soft, rubbery polymers that can be melted and re-formed over and over again.

Cochran, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Williams, the Gerald and Audrey Olson Professor in Civil Engineering and manager of the Institute for Transportation’s Asphalt Materials and Pavements Program, started their project in 2010 in a Sweeney Hall lab. 

Within a year they were making a few grams of biorenewable polymers from soybean oil, acrylic acid and a chemical process called atom transfer radical polymerization.

Now, after 18 months of designing and building, there’s a facility that uses their technology to make about 1,000 pounds of bio-polymers per day.

“This is new territory for us,” Cochran said. “This actually feels like a chemical plant. We’re working to scale up these processes and turn them into commercial products.” Williams said taking the process from the lab to the pilot scale is all about “de-risking” the technology for companies that could be interested in producing hundreds of thousands of tons of bio-polymers a year.

Donald Sjogren, the specialty products manager for Seneca Petroleum and assistant to the manager for Argo Genesis Chemical, said the company was the first in the Midwest to add petroleum-based polymers to asphalt in the early 1990s. The idea was to add longevity and resilience to asphalt pavements and create a competitive advantage.

With the hope of eventually replacing the petroleum-based polymers in its asphalt with biorenewable ones, the company supported the laboratory work of Cochran and Williams. As the technology came together, the company licensed it from the Iowa State University Research Foundation and agreed to build a pilot-scale facility.

“We’re always interested in being the first in the industry to bring a biorenewable aspect to our products,” Sjogren said. “We are already working with the university on the next generations of these technologies.”

Once the facility is up and running, Sjogren said he expects high demand for asphalt mixed with the bio-polymers. He said there could be five test projects as early as next summer.

Williams and Cochran said the bio-polymers will also be tested for use in adhesives, coatings and packing materials.

“The goal of all the partners here is to work together to take this technology to expedited commercialization,” Sjogren said. 

Source: Iowa State University

Thursday, August 27, 2015

TerraVerdae Marks a Significant Milestone in Biobased PHA Production

TerraVerdae BioWorks Inc, an industrial biotechnology company developing advanced bioplastics and performance biomaterials from environmentally sustainable sources, announced that it has reached a major milestone—creation of its proprietary technology at a commercial scale. It has completed the scale-up optimization of its process to produce biodegradable PHA bioplastics from waste-derived methanol. 

Funded by a major grant from Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, TerraVerdae’s process uses “green” methanol from, forestry, municipal, agricultural or industrial waste sources, instead of petroleum or sugar-based sources. The bioprocess produces polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), a biobased and biodegradable bioplastic that is the starting material for a range of advanced biomaterials utilized in a variety of applications and markets. 

“Our C1 based bioprocess represents a paradigm shift in economics and sustainability compared to traditional food or sugar-based bioprocesses,” said William Bardosh, CEO and founder of TerraVerdae BioWorks. “Successfully reaching this milestone is an important step to our ultimate goal of full commercial production of next generation industrial materials that are sustainable and engineered for performance applications.” 

The project optimized the process robustness and demonstrated the industrial scale economics of integrated methanol and PHA production to achieve productivity and competitiveness for commercial deployment. 

“Our C1 based bioprocess is very adaptable to a variety of high performance biomaterials,” continued Bardosh. “The first of our products using this technology, biodegradable microspheres, are a natural substitute for plastic microbeads commonly used in personal care and cosmetic products like toothpaste and body scrubs. We are also developing a range of additional performance products for the $200 billion global bioproducts market, including biodegradable 3D printing filaments, specialty films and performance coatings.” 

Source: TerraVerdae BioWorks 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Polymer Failure & Defects: Case-Histories of Problem Solving

This uniquely practical and industry’s UN-RIVALED course, to be offered in Atlanta, GA, USA, SEPT 22-24, 2015, “Polymer Failure & Defects: Problem Solving Case-Histories” has been attended by 500+ participants with representation from premier global companies. A highlight of the course is the presentation of 50+ Case-Histories of $MM business impact via skilled investigation of problems; solutions backed by PATENTS, PUBLICATIONS in prestigious journals & documented COMMERCIAL VALUE. There will be a major presentation on “How to Identify Innovation Opportunities During Routine Technical Operations”. 

EXAMPLE #1: During occasional longer breaks, the extruder froze resulting in lengthy tear-downs & cleaning, thus adversely affecting the productivity. "Melt-Polycondensation" was established as the root-cause. Rather than changing the “near Impossible” manufacturing process for the plastic resin, a change in lubricant system with an unexpected catalytic effect, solved the problem. The Case-History leading to $10M+ in preserved business will be discussed including technical fundamentals & product development. 

EXAMPLE #2: Multi-layered film upon shipping from Location-A to the Location-B shrank consistently by 0.5% along the TD creating "Nipping" problems during thermoforming. Upon returning the reject lots back to Location-A, only 0.2% shrinkage was identified, consistently. Both measurements were correct, although different. After understanding the root-cause, solution was based on handling the reversible effect of %RH differences at the A vs B locations and the irreversible effect of post-crystallization before slitting at Location-A. 

For more information, please visit

Thursday, August 20, 2015

MHG Announces Large Scale PHA Production Using 1st Commercial Scale Fermenter

MHG’s Chief Executive Officer, Paul A. Pereira announced the company has become the world’s largest producer of PHA with the startup of their first commercial scale fermenter. This event, along with an advanced technology platform, continues to place MHG at the forefront of the bioplastics industry. 

This new fermentation vessel places MHG in an ideal position to meet the product delivery needs of their manufacturing customers worldwide. MHG has been working over the last couple years to ramp up the Bainbridge facility and in 2013, they brought in a world-class engineering and construction group to design and build out the plant. This expansion included the ordering and installation of custom equipment that will allow MHG to produce even greater quantities of PHA in the near future. 

“Every single person, whether they are inland or on the coast has been affected in some way by plastic debris,” remarked Pereira. “The plastic we have seen and touched will be there for several generations, adversely affecting our environment. At MHG, we believe PHA is the solution for a healthier planet and operating this new fermentation vessel will allow us to increase production of this solution to combat the problem of plastic waste.” 

MHG previously partnered with Tate & Lyle, global provider of specialty ingredients and solutions to test the scalability of Nodax™ PHA. The production rates and titers achieved exceeded the metrics needed for commercial production viability. This confirmed that MHG’s PHA can be scaled for commercialization. 

MHG’s PHA possesses properties that perform equal to, if not better than, most petrochemical plastics. Due to its unique molecular structure, MHG’s PHA can be custom formulated to create different types of polymers based on the specific purposes and client’s needs. The PHA can be used to manufacture many items commonly made of petroleum plastics including toys, cups, straws, utensils, single use plastic bags and many other disposable items that are entering the waste streams worldwide. Because products manufactured from NodaxTM PHA biodegrade in three months to one year, they provide a solution to plastic pollution and accumulation when used instead of conventional plastic. 

MHG’s PHA has been certified to degrade in soil, fresh water, marine water, industrial compost and home compost by Vinçotte International. The PHA is also approved for food substance contact by the FDA. 

In addition to this new piece of customized equipment, MHG will be presenting at the International Conference on Biopolymers and Bioplastics, which will be taking place August 10th through the 12th in San Francisco. 

Source: MHG 

Monday, August 10, 2015

General Motors uses advanced composites from CSP in its 2016 Chevrolet Corvette

“Through a joint continuous improvement effort, Chevrolet and CSP have significantly reduced the density of the Corvette body panels – from 1.9 specific gravity for the 2013 model year, to 1.6 specific gravity for the 2014 model year to 1.2 for the 2016 model year,” said Christopher Basela, Lead Engineer for Corvette Body Composites. 

The mass savings afforded by TCA Ultra Lite is accomplished through the use of a CSP-patented technology that uses treated glass bubbles to replace some of the calciumc carbonate filler, resulting in a lighter density material. On the C7, a total of 21 body panel assemblies, including doors, decklids, quarter panels and fenders, are molded from TCA Ultra Lite. 

When combined with CSP’s patented vacuum and bonding manufacturing processes, TCA Ultra Lite offers a premium Class A finish with paint and gloss qualities comparable to metals, including aluminum. The material is able to withstand the E-coat process, and passes all OEM paint tests. It also offers reduced costs at all volumes – and for production volumes under 150,000, tooling costs for composites can be as much as 50 to 70 percent less than those for stamping steel or aluminum.