DuPont, ADM Unveil Route To Biobased Polyester | January 25, 2016 Issue - Vol. 94 Issue 4 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 94 Issue 4 | p. 6 | News of The Week
Issue Date: January 25, 2016

DuPont, ADM Unveil Route To Biobased Polyester

Renewable Chemistry: Low-cost method for making key monomer enables a sugar-derived plastic for bottles
Department: Business
News Channels: Materials SCENE
Keywords: biobased, biobased chemicals, sustainability, recycling, fructose

DuPont and agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland have unveiled a process to make furan dicarboxylic methyl ester (FDME) from fructose. The companies plan on reacting the chemical with 1,3-propanediol to make a new biobased packaging polymer.

FDME is the methyl ester of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), which the Department of Energy earlier identified as an important potential biobased chemical building block.

The Dutch firm Avantium has been promoting FDCA as a raw material to make polyethylene furanoate (PEF), which it bills as a biobased alternative to the conventional packaging polyester polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

DuPont is developing a different polymer, polytrimethylene furandicarboxylate (PTF), which is synthesized by reacting FDME with 1,3-propanediol made at its Tennessee joint venture with Tate & Lyle. Like PEF, PTF boasts better gas barrier properties than PET.

In addition to packaging applications such as beverage bottles, ADM and DuPont say, they see potential for their new polymer in fiber and engineering plastic applications.

FDME can furthermore form PEF when reacted with ethylene glycol.

DuPont and ADM say they were working independently on a route to FDME and combined their efforts about three years ago. The process they developed uses chemical catalysis to convert fructose and methanol into FDME. DuPont says the setup is lower-cost than existing processes to make FDCA.

The two companies plan to build a 60-metric-ton-per-year demonstration facility at ADM’s complex in Decatur, Ill. Avantium, meanwhile, has been working with Coca-Cola and Danone to develop PEF. The company intends to detail its plans for its first commercial-scale FDCA plant later this quarter.

William Tittle, a principal at the consulting firm Nexant, says PEF and PTF are superior polymers to PET because of their strong barrier properties. However, a new polymer could end up contaminating the healthy recycling system for PET bottles. “The bugaboo is, what do you do about recycling?” he says.

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Chip (January 27, 2016 2:37 PM)
Isn't this the same thing as the work done by Webster et al. from NDSU?
Will Shore (January 27, 2016 11:33 PM)
Where do those replacements melt. Polypropylene's high mp beats the tar out of PET.
Robert Buntrock (January 28, 2016 1:06 PM)
For bottles PET and similar products have a high enough melting point (actually glass transition point) to be effective. The real key is gas barrier properties at which the polyesters excel. Recycling of mixed polyester streams could be a problems as stated.

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