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Corn-Based Engineering Plastics On the Way

Although there is a great deal of buzz about E85 and biodiesel, DuPont Engineering Polymers is doing its part for automotive sustainability by launching a family of high-performance thermoplastic resins and elastomers based on renewable resources—like corn sugar.

Although there is a great deal of buzz about E85 and biodiesel, DuPont Engineering Polymers is doing its part for automotive sustainability by launching a family of high-performance thermoplastic resins and elastomers based on renewable resources—like corn sugar. These new materials are not for some sort of light-weight applications, either, as automotive applications for Hytrel made with the Bio-PDO material include extruded hose and tubing, blow-molded boots for CV joints, and injection-molded parts including airbag doors and energy dampers. In fact, they’ve compared conventional Hytrel (which uses a petrochemical polyol) with the renewable resource-based Hytrel (it uses a bio-based polyol) and have determined that there are improvements in temperature range and elastic recovery for the new materials. This material is expected to become available Q4 2007.

They’re also going to start producing Sorona polymer with Bio-PDO; this engineering plastic is said to have performance and molding characteristics similar to polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and can be used for various automotive components. This polymer is produced by polymerizing Bio-PDO with either terephthalic acid (TPA) or dimethyl terephthalate (DMT).
The Bio-PDO, says Nandan Rao, vice president, Global Technology, DuPont Performance Materials, is produced via a patented, proprietary fermentation process. Not only is it renewable, it requires 40% less energy to produce than the petrochemical counterpart. DuPont plans to produce 100 million pounds of Bio-PDO at a facility owned and operated by DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products in Loudon, TN. Not surprisingly, this joint-venture plant is claimed to be the world’s largest aerobic fermentation plant.

DuPont, says Rao, has a goal of achieving 25% of its revenue from non-depletable resources by 2010. Presumably, there will be a whole lot more developments like Bio-PDO coming.—GSV