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Issue 04/2018

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Basics Biocatalytic

Basics Biocatalytic process to produce FDCA By: Stephan Roest Market Development Manager Corbion Gorinchem, The Netherlands PEF has become the popular new plastic on the block, and companies like Corbion (Gorinchem, The Netherlands) are working hard on its market introduction. The new monomer FDCA is key to the plastic, and makes it possible to produce PEF as an alternative to for instance PET. Of all the companies working on the commercial-scale production of FDCA, Corbion is the only one that uses a biocatalytic route to produce FDCA from sugars. Corbion is pioneering a highly efficient biocatalytic process to produce 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) as a monomer for the bioplastic PEF (polyethylenefuranoate). Corbion has been developing this route since 2013, when it obtained the biotechnology route with the acquisition of biotech company Bird Engineering. The biocatalytic route to FDCA is a perfect match with Corbion’s fermentation and purification experience and capabilities in lactic acid. Like a jacuzzi Starting from C6 sugars, Corbion first produces the intermediate 5-hydroxymethylfuryfral (HMF). The raw- HMF is then fed to microorganisms that transfers the HMF into FDCA. Conventional ways use selective oxidation with platinum (or other noble metal or non-noble metal) catalysts. One advantage of Corbion’s biocatalytic process is that is has very mild conditions: to get the best production from the microorganisms, the process has to be as comfortable as possible for them, being: neutral pH, no-pressure, 37 °C and a bit of aeration. You can picture it as a jacuzzi! On top of that, due to the enzymatic conversion, the process shows very high yields (>99%) and has a very high selectivity resulting in high purity FDCA with virtually no byproduct. This also allows to use raw-HMF without the need to purify the HMF inbetween. Corbion has been purifying organic acids from fermentation-broths for over 85 years which is a great experience to build on when it comes to purifying the FDCA from the broth. This process results in a very pure polymergrade FDCA that has found its use in many polymer and chemical applications already, that are now being tested and validated for market introduction. Making PEF a reality FDCA can replace oil-based purified terephthalic acid (PTA), as used to produce PET and a wide variety of other plastics. FDCA is not a direct replacement for PTA, as PEF is not a direct replacement for PET since their chemical structures are slightly different. However, they are sufficiently similar to allow FDCA to be used in combination with monoethylene glycol (MEG) in existing PET polymerization plants , making FDCA an infrastructure drop-in. PEF is a sustainable bioplastic that – if combined with biobased MEG - can be produced 100% biobased, boosting the sustainability credentials in key applications such as packaging. PEF bioplastic has already attracted a lot of attention as promising material across several industries, as manufacturers can see its potentially huge impact on the world. The benefits are clear (see table below). For food and beverages, for example, PEF enables to keep the products fresh longer than PET, due to the higher barrierproperties of the material. This also reduces the amount of food waste. Compared to PET, PEF is stronger allowing for further light weighting of a packaging product, saving material and transportation costs. Also the higher glass transition temperature is of value: as it is above 85 °C, the PEF allows for hot-filling of nutritious or oxygen sensitive drinks, like sports-drinks, without the need to enforce the top and shoulder of the bottle with extra material, that is nowadays is required for PET. Choosing biobased plastics like PEF means contributing to the transition towards a circular economy. Not only can PEF be recycled, just as well as PET, but it is also fully biobased which means a decoupling from fossil resources. With these advantages, it’s not hard to see why PEF has become so popular in the last couple of years. PEF properties table PEF PET Benefit Barrier O 2 6 – 10 x 1 x • Increased shelf life / reduced food waste • No need for additional barrier layers CO 2 4 – 6 x 1 x • Increased shelf life / reduced food waste • No need for additional barrier layers H 2 O 2 x 1 x • Better performance in warm and humid areas Mechanical Tensile Modulus ~1.6 x 1 x • Perfect for rigid bottles / Increased top load • Allow for further light-weighting Thermal T g (°C) 86 – 87 74 – 79 • Hot-filling at 85 °C of oxygen sensitive drinks (PET bottle needs enforcement to allow this) T m (°C) 213 – 235 234 – 265 • Co-extrusion possibilities • Reduced processing temperatures 48 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/18] Vol. 13

Basics COMPEO Corbion makes it happen The people at Corbion are excited to be at the forefront of this innovation in this field. For FDCA and PEF, they are actively working together with partners throughout the value chain – from sugar suppliers to brand owners – to introduce this new material to the market on commercial scale, and make it happen. Leading compounding technology for heat- and shear-sensitive plastics HO O O O O OH O FDCA HO OH PTA Development of PEF film by Corbion Uniquely efficient. Incredibly versatile. Amazingly flexible. With its new COMPEO Kneader series, BUSS continues to offer continuous compounding solutions that set the standard for heat- and shear-sensitive applications, in all industries, including for biopolymers. • Moderate, uniform shear rates • Extremely low temperature profile • Efficient injection of liquid components • Precise temperature control • High filler loadings bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/18] Vol. 13 49

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