“This molecule, and its numerous applications, will be high-performing, cost-effective and better for the environment.”
DuPont has broken new ground with the opening of what the company says is the world’s first pilot production facility that produces bio-based furan dicarboxylic methyl ester (FDME), a molecule that can be used in the production of a range of plastics. The chemical specialist has teamed up with fellow-US company Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in the creation of FDME that both hope will bring about a new sustainable bio-material for consumers that will usurp traditional materials which rely almost entirely on fossil fuels to make them.
The companies revealed in 2016 the discovery of the sugar-based molecule and have now moved onto small-scale production of the material. The next challenge for the pilot test site in Illinois will be to develop the process so that it can be recreated on an industrial scale.
A derivative of fructose, a sugar found in many plants, FDME can be engineered to make a variety of bio-based chemicals and materials, including plastics used in the packaging industry, but which the companies insist can be more cost-effective, efficient and sustainable than their fossil fuel-based counterparts. Around one-tenth of the world’s oil is used in the production of everyday plastic products says DuPont – a situation that could worsen if the world’s growing population can’t rely on an alternative that uses natural products instead.
“We’re confident FDME is both the more sustainable option and the better-for-business option,” said Michael Saltzberg, bio-materials global business director at DuPont. “This molecule, and its numerous applications, will be high-performing, cost-effective and better for the environment.” Saltzberg added that ADM were the perfect company to partner with owing to its expertise in agricultural value chains and the chemistry of carbohydrates.
ADM chief technology officer, Todd Werpy, said that one of the key challenges around the development of an eco-plastic is one of cost. “Companies and consumers are of course concerned about their environmental footprint, but their bottom line will always be a key priority.”
In news that will be of huge interest to suppliers looking to lower their carbon footprint, among the first FDME-based polymers under development by DuPont (@DuPontBiobased) is polytrimethylene furandicarboxyate (PTF), a polyester made from DuPont’s Bio-PDO technology. Research revealed by DuPont shows that PTF can offer improved barrier performance on traditional PET plastic by up to 15-times, ultimately resulting in a longer shelf life.
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