Reinforcing its position as the leading producer of isosorbide for the performance plastics and chemistry markets, the France-based, family-owned Roquette Group has announced that its newly built isosorbide production unit at the Roquette site in Lestrem has now been put into full-scale operation.
At the new plant, which has an annual production capacity of 20,000 tons, isosorbide is produced using Roquette's patented sorbitol-based process and marketed under the brand name Polysorb. The plant runs with the latest high-performance technologies. The different purification steps in the production process produces isosorbide grades of very high purity—over 99.5% isosorbide content—which enables Roquette to comply with all quality requirements of its customers, as well as to support the development of innovative high-performance solutions for the global plastics and chemistry industry.
Roquette has always been convinced of the potential of isosorbide in performance materials. The group launched its first pilot unit in 2002 and completed its first industrial-scale unit in 2007. Roquette almost immediately decided to invest in an additional production facility, in order to be able to meet anticipated future market demand.
Today, isosorbide is a platform for Roquette building blocks. As an industrial ingredient made from starch, it is extremely versatile, boasting a wide range of applications. It can be used in polyesters for inks, toners, powder coatings, packaging and durable goods; polyurethanes for foams and coatings; polycarbonates for durable goods and optical media; epoxy resins for paints; and detergents, surfactants and additives for personal care and consumer products.
The purity of Roquette's Polysorb isosorbide grades makes these a solution of choice for performance plastics such as thermoplastics and curable resins, providing enhanced characteristics compared to conventional solutions. Poly(ethylene-co-isosorbide) terephthalate (PEIT), for example, has excellent clarity and higher heat resistance than both PET and PETG. Polysorb isosorbide can also serve as a substitute for bisphenol A in polycarbonates. Not only does this eliminate the need to use what remains a controversial ingredient, it also improves the optical properties of polycarbonate, its resistance to ultra-violet (UV) light and its chemical and thermal resistance.
Moreover, in the form of isosorbide diester, it is a green plasticizer, which is marketed by Roquette under the brand name Polysorb ID. This 100%-biosourced plasticizer offers key improvements in performance for PVC resins and can be used as an alternative for standard phthalate-based plasticizers.
According to Pascal Leroy, Vice-President, Market Unit Plant-based Solutions, the production of Isiosorbide and its derivatives underscores the group's strategy of sustainable innovation, illustrating "the engagement of Roquette in the domain of plant-based chemistry."
"These new and innovative products complete the offer to industrial markets (paper, cardboard, detergents, materials, insulation, etc.) in which Roquette already holds a leading position. These solutions provide technological, environmental and health benefits to these markets, while being competitive," he said.