"By converting 100% of the biomass’s constituents, it becomes economically feasible to process at scales previously thought impossible..."
Virtually every person, organization, and human activity in the world creates some type of waste. And its generation in most cases represents a hugely inefficient use of materials. Just think for a minute of some of them; black liquor created during industrial pulp & paper manufacturing, the corn stover left after harvest on the field, or the nut shells piling up in food factories.
But now, a company based just north of Atlanta, Georgia – Attis Innovations – is changing perceptions of what waste means, and has some major milestones approaching in 2018. Today we speak exclusively to Jeff Cosman their CEO and Helen Petersen about their approach, unique products, and the immense revenue potential their technology brings to the growing bio-economy.
We open up by asking Jeff to give us an introduction into the business; “On Earth, the most concentrated source of carbon in a plant is lignin but it’s considered a low-value byproduct in the production of paper, pulp and cellulosic ethanol and as such is often burned for energy production. For us at Attis, rather than lignin being used as an under-valued source of energy, we believe it has a much higher value when deployed as a renewable substitute for carbon in traditional petroleum-based products.”
Jeff goes on to say, “Our primary focus is in creating new revenue streams from biomass, where its various constituents can be elegantly extracted and converted into a multitude of bio-based products for use in plastics, fuels, adhesives and many more. We believe that by capitalizing on these new markets, existing pulp and paper and cellulosic ethanol facilities can generate between 35% to 100% more revenue per ton of biomass processed.”
So that presents the question, why hasn’t lignin been more widely extracted in the past? It has been attempted. However, methods to date have been known to damage the structure of the lignin molecules and thus diminish its usefulness.
This is where Attis’ proprietary technology shines. By employing a process that requires significantly less capital than traditional recovery methods while also delicately extracting and purifying the lignin, Attis can preserve the product’s natural properties at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, during this process, functional additives can be introduced to increase the performance of the lignin in a myriad of applications. Attis capitalizes on lignin’s inherent properties and offers companies and even entire industries a cost-effective strategy for introducing bio-based content into their product portfolios.
Helen Petersen tells us more about the flexibility of their technology; “Unlike pulp and paper manufacturers or cellulosic ethanol producers, we are not solely reliant on cellulose content in our feedstock, and thus we can focus on various types of non-traditional biomass, opening the door for many agricultural by-products such as crop residuals, bark, sawdust, nut shells and many more.”
This is another point of differentiation with Attis’ technology, not only can it process nearly any form of biomass, but it is also simple enough to be economically scaled-down to a size that fits unique feedstock opportunities. Most biomass processing facilities require massive economies of scale and feedstock inventory to justify their investment. Companies can often struggle to process at a small scale, thus blocking out potential partners and limiting their geographic scope. Not so with Attis, as their technology is uniquely scalable to allow cost-effective processing at flow rates ranging from 200 up to 2,000 ton per day.
Helen further explains, “By converting 100% of the biomass’s constituents, it becomes economically feasible to process at scales previously thought impossible. This creates the potential to boost economic growth and jobs in rural areas and propagate an inclusive bio-economy.”
Since its founding in May 2017 Attis Innovations ( @attisinnovation ) has made rapid progress in commercializing its lignin extraction process and developing a portfolio of bio-based materials. This started with Attis’ recent announcement of the exclusive license to American Science and Technology’s (AST) biomass processing facility and associated intellectual property. AST’s processing facility allows for the accelerated evaluation of biomass feedstock opportunities as well as finished product validation. In addition, the AST facility and laboratory can be utilized publicly for contract R&D services related to biomass processing and characterization.
In conjunction with Attis’ vision to commercialize AST’s biomass processing technology, the company has made great strides in the development of bio-based materials from its unique, meltflowable lignin. February saw them announce the successful completion of performance testing for their lignin-based resins products with the results demonstrating outstanding mechanical and processing characteristics compared to virgin plastics materials. Attis was able to blend its melt-flowable lignin at 15-25% inclusion rates in both polypropylene and polyethylene materials while retaining 100% of the tensile modulus, 100% of the impact strength, and over 90% of the tensile strength.
These impressive results come as part of the company’s rapid development curve, and this offering could be used across a host of plastics applications, including automotive components, agricultural products, building and construction and other durable goods.
In speaking to Jeff and Helen, their knowledge is clear but so too is their passion, both firmly believe that Attis can prosper where others have failed, and covert under-valued byproduct streams into higher value, bio-based commercial products. While still early, Attis’ focus is squarely on rapid growth in 2018 with plans to start construction of their first commercial scale facility while continuing to diversify their bio-based product portfolio.
Jeff finishes up his time with us by reiterating their core beliefs; “I consider us to be the Model-T Ford of the biorefining industry. Innovation is at our core and every day we are advancing towards the creation of a truly sustainable bio-economy. We believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and our innate ability to identify and effectively derive value from biomass will lead to unparalleled growth across multiple industries.”
Attis is seeking partners that have similar aspirations to create more value from biomass while furthering the growth of a truly sustainable bio-economy. If you would like to learn more, please contact Attis Innovations at firstname.lastname@example.org or on their website www.attisinnovations.com.
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Download: Bio-Based World Quarterly issue #9