For the Solvay /Avantium agreement, the companies will work to explore the commercial potential of engineering plastics on the basis of YXY building blocks. The goal is to create polyamides with new properties that can serve a range of applications, at a price acceptable to plastics processors.
Avantium is a research and technology company that is developing biobased chemical building blocks, under the brand name YXY (pronounced "icksy"). According to Avantium (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), these can be used to make materials and fuels that can compete on both price and performance with petroleum-based alternatives, but which have a superior environmental footprint. YXY is a patented technology that, via Avantium's catalytic technology, converts carbohydrates (derived from biomass) into Furanic building blocks, such as FDCA (2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid).
Avantium claims that, in comparison to biological production technology, such as fermentation, its catalytic process is much faster, taken minutes instead of days, and that the cost of the catalyst is 20% or less that of the enzymes required for fermentation. Also significant is that YXY can be implemented in existing chemical production lines.
Avantium reckons the YXY building blocks can be used not just for polyamide but for other plastics too, including polyurethane, polyester, for thermoset plastics and for plasticizers. Avantium is working with bioplastics supplier NatureWorks, and in April 2011 started a pilot plant for production of polyester based on its YXY technology. Late last month at the BioPlastek 2011 Forum in New York City, Avantium presented its approach to creating a more environmentally friendly PET bottle. As reported here, major brand owners including H.J. Heinz and PepsiCo are working to replace petroleum-derived PET with "green" using biobased TPA, a PET building block. Avantium's approach is to use furan FDCA as a replacement for TPA, so as to produce PEF instead of PET. Avantium claims that FDCA is less expensive than TPA, and recently received €30 million in financing to prove it.
Polyamide in focus for Solvay
Solvay (Brussels, Belgium) and Avantium will make a range of polyamide compositions containing Avantium's YXY building blocks, after which Solvay Specialty Polymers will test these polyamides for engineering applications in areas such as automotive and electronic materials. "We are very happy to be able to look at the potential of YXY building blocks in specialty polyamides together with Avantium", said Antoine Amory, in charge of renewable-based chemistry developments within the newly created Innovation Center of Solvay. "Avantium's success in making such building blocks available through a unique manufacturing route is an essential key step that opens up new opportunities in the field of specialty polymers which we are impatient to explore."