American startup Anellotech has developed a 100 % bio-based polymer made using their trademark technology Bio-TCat. The process uses loblolly pine wood as feedstock. Beverages company Suntory has already produced a juice bottle using the new material.
Anellotech has now proven the technical viability of its Bio-TCat production process. Bio-TCat aims to solve the current lack of efficient and scalable ways to make aromatic hydrocarbons from renewable biomass. The process can also make chemical bases for diesel and jet fuel blendstocks. Discussions are now underway to commercialise the process. The company is now trying to identify potential partners and a plant location to begin manufacturing at a rate of 500 tonnes of feedstock per day.
“The competitive advantage of Anellotech’s Bio-TCat generated paraxylene is its process efficiency (it uses a single-step thermal catalytic process by going directly from biomass to aromatics (benzene, toluene, and xylene)), as well as the opportunity it creates for a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as compared to its identical fossil-derived paraxylene in the manufacture of PET, especially as it generates required process energy from the biomass feedstock itself,” said David Sudolsky, President and CEO of Anellotech.
Anellotech’s bio-based material is p-Xylene (or paraxylene), a material usually made from petroleum. The biomaterial is identical to the petroleum-derived version. P-Xylene is a chemical feedstock for creating polyesters such as polyethylene terephthalate, more commonly known as PET.
Xylenes belong to a group of chemical compounds called aromatic hydrocarbons. Other common examples are benzene and toluene. Aromatic hydrocarbons make up 40 percent of all industrial chemicals produced today. They are a critical component in gasoline, polymers, insecticides, detergents, dyes, and other products. A commercially viable method for making these from renewable biomass rather than petroleum would be a breakthrough for the materials industry.
Anellotech was founded in 2008 and has raised $180 million to date. They developed their PET product in collaboration with partners IFP Energies Nouvelles, a French public research entity, and Axens, a global licenser of technologies to the petroleum industries.