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Green Matter: Generation YXY is clean and green

Avantium, a leading Amsterdam-based technology company that develops and commercializes chemical building blocks for making bioplastics and fuels, has announced that for second year in a row it has been listed in the prestigious Global Cleantech 100, chosen from more than 4000 nominees.

Avantium, a leading Amsterdam-based technology company that develops and commercializes chemical building blocks for making bioplastics and fuels, has announced that for second year in a row it has been listed in the prestigious Global Cleantech 100, chosen from more than 4000 nominees.

The list is produced by Cleantech Group, a leading research firm focused on global cleantech innovation. The scope of the list is worldwide, focusing on those companies that are most likely to make the most significant market impact over the next 5-10 years. Of the more than 4000 companies nominated this year, 213 made it onto the shortlist, from which a panel of 70 experts subsequently selected the top 100.

Avantium CEO Tom van Aken was delighted with the nomination. "Being named again in the Global Cleantech 100 list is a fantastic confirmation of our YXY technology," he said.

No bugs

Avantium was founded in 2000 as a spinoff from Royal Dutch Shell, and has developed a novel and proprietary catalytic process to convert carbohydrates in biomass into furanic building blocks, or furanics, under the brand name YXY. They can be used to produce green materials and fuels. "Their potential had long been recognized, but until Avantium figured out how to produce them economically, they were referred to as 'sleeping giants'", said Frank Roerink, CFO at Avantium. "They had been studied for decades by companies like DSM, Dupont and Quaker Oats, and were identified by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of the top 12 building blocks for biobased products."
He went on to explain that using a catalyst to convert biomass directly into furanics was a much faster and much less expensive production route than fermentation - the route many others were attempting. "We don't use bugs. It's a truly chemical catalytic process. We feed sugar into a cracker, where it reacts with the catalyst and we have the product within seconds. With fermentation, it can take up to 48 hours. And because it's so fast, we offer a truly competitive alternative to oil."

Commercialization in sight

In June of this year, Avantium opened a polyester pilot plant on the basis of its YXY technology at the Chemelot site in Geleen, the Netherlands. This marked an important step in Avantium's development of PEF, a next-generation biobased, 100% recyclable polyester that reportedly can compete with oil-based polyesters such as PET. With larger volumes of PEF available, commercialization of the new bioplastic can now get under way. Avantium has demonstrated that PEF has numerous superior properties over PET, including barrier functionality (oxygen, carbon-dioxide and water) and its ability to withstand heat. Avantium is actively working on the development of PEF bottles for water, soft drinks, fruit juices, alcoholic drinks, food, diary, cosmetic products, soaps and detergents. Adoption of the YXY technology is expected to present few problems due to its compatibility with existing production assets and supply chains.

Banner year

All in all, it's been an event-filled year for the company since last year's nomination. A well-satisfied Tom van Aken summed it up as follows:  "We've made enormous progress since the 2010 Global Cleantech 100. We successfully completed a Euro 30 million financing round. We have signed two new partnerships, with Teijin and Solvay, to develop a broad range of applications. Furthermore, we are finalizing a number of exciting joint-development agreements with large brand owners for PEF applications. We are on track with the construction and operation of our YXY pilot plant to prove our process on a larger scale and to do application testing in collaboration with our partners. We are getting closer to creating a truly green economy."

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