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Avantium raises Euro 30 million for would-be PET replacement

Avantium (Amsterdam) has raised EUR 30 million, money it says it will use to develop and commercialize a next-generation polyester based on bioderived Furanics building blocks. Avantium will apply the funds to the construction and operation of its pilot plant in Geleen, the Netherlands, as well as to develop more green materials, including a polyamide, on the basis of its YXY building blocks.

Avantium (Amsterdam) has raised EUR 30 million, money it says it will use to develop and commercialize a next-generation polyester based on bioderived Furanics building blocks. Avantium will apply the funds to the construction and operation of its pilot plant in Geleen, the Netherlands, as well as to develop more green materials, including a polyamide, on the basis of its YXY building blocks.

The company calls its PEF (Poly-ethylene-furanoate) polyester a "new-to-the-world" polymer that can be made out of plant material instead of oil. Avantium has ambitious goals for PEF, positioning the green material as replacement to petroleum-based polyesters like polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

PEF has demonstrated some superior properties over traditional PET, according to Avantium, including lower permeability of oxygen, carbon-dioxide, and water and an enhanced ability to withstand heat. The company is currently developing PEF bottles for beverages, food, cosmetic products, and detergents. It is also working on PEF fibers and other materials based on its YXY (pronounced as icksy) building blocks, including the aforementioned polyamides and coatings (For more on Avantium, read this article on its participation in the SPE GPEC 2010 Clean Tech competition).

Tom van Aken, Avantium CEO, said the company is experiencing "overwhelming interest" from consumer goods and industrial companies interested in using its YXY building blocks for a range of applications, including bottles for water, soft drinks, and beer; PEF fibers for apparel and carpets; and engineering plastics for automotive and electronic materials.

YXY is a patented technology that converts biomass into furanics building blocks such as FDCA (2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid), itself a monomer that can be used for the production of Avantium's "green polyester" PEF (Poly-ethylene-furanoate). Furanics have long held promise as a chemical building block, but had been prohibitively expensive to manufacture.

On April 28, Avantium announced the start-up of YXY polyester pilot plant in Geleen. That pilot plant is part of a new site to demonstrate YXY technology for materials and fuels, with the company's monomer pilot plant scheduled to become operational in the second half of 2011. Avantium acquired the polyester pilot plant from Johnson Matthey in the United Kingdom, where it ran oil-based polyesters.

Avantium will use a licensing model to commercialize the YXY technology, working to enter into licensing agreements with industrial chemical and polymer companies. The company was founded in 2000 by an international consortium including Royal Dutch Shell, Eastman Chemical, Akzo-Nobel, and Pfizer.

In addition to the Euro 25 million financing round with new investors (Sofinnova Partners, Aster Capital, and De Hoge Dennen) and existing investors (Aescap Venture, Capricorn Cleantech Fund, ING Corporate Investments, and Navitas Capital), Avantium secured a EUR 5 million subsidy and innovation credit from the Dutch Ministry of Economy, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I).

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