Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Royal DSM Approves Genomatica's Bio-Based BDO for Use in Arnitel Thermoplastics

Royal DSM, the global life sciences and materials sciences company, announced last week that in-depth testing has proven that Genomatica’s renewable form of the organic compound 1,4-butanediol (BDO) has excellent purity and shows equivalent performance as fossil-based BDO. The company says using BDO made with Genomatica's bio-based process technology in its Arnitel thermoplastic products can increase Arnitel's bio-based content up to 73%; because of this and its level of performance, DSM says it considers the renewable BDO a suitable raw material for commercial production of Arnitel.

Arnitel is a family of versatile engineering plastics with flexibility, high-temperature resistance, strength and excellent processing characteristics. DSM conducted in-depth tests with Genomatica's bio-based BDO to produce PBT (polybutylene terephthalate), one of the building blocks of Arnitel TPC. DSM's tests confirm that Genomatica’s bio-based BDO was of higher purity than typical fossil-based BDO. Additionally, when used to form polymers, this bio-based BDO delivers equivalent in-spec behavior and properties of the polymers compared to using petroleum-based BDO and required no changes in DSM's processes.

DSM plans to start transitioning its Arnitel portfolio to this new BDO, as soon as supplies are readily available.

Rein Borggreve, Global Research and Technology Director at DSM said: "As a global science-based company, DSM understands the need to make the transition from a fossil-based economy to a bio-based economy. So we are focusing on developing alternative, renewable, non-fossil-based solutions. To speed up this development process, we frequently partner with leading innovators such as Genomatica.

"Both DSM and Genomatica are leaders in the production and invention of bio-based solutions," he added. "Together we can shape part of the bio-based economy that will emerge after the fossil-based economy."

The first two products to benefit from the new BDO are:

  • Arnitel Eco, used in food packaging films and a number of soft-touch applications in consumer electronics, already has a bio-based content of 22-53%, depending on the hardness. The introduction of BDO made with Genomatica's process will increase the bio-based content up to 73%.
  • Arnitel VT is a flexible material that, when made into membranes just a few microns thick, is 100% waterproof but also highly breathable and comfortable; its primary application is in outdoor apparel and shoes. Currently, Arnitel VT products are not bio-based — the planned substitution of Genomatica’s renewable BDO will result in an Arnitel VT that is up to 22% bio-based.

Christophe Schilling, Ph.D., CEO of Genomatica, said: "DSM's tests show how quickly bio-based products can be adopted if you're delivering the exact same performance for an existing, high-volume chemical. Our partnership combines DSM's in-depth understanding of materials and applications with our technology, and together this will deliver new, more sustainable materials. We applaud DSM's initiative in being an early mover in this field, and are excited about this additional proof of the commercial-readiness of our BDO process."

Royal DSM isn’t the first company to notice the distinct performance and sustainability advantages of Genomatica’s renewal BDO — in May, chemical giant BASF announced it had partnered with Genomatica and licensed the technology company’s patented, one-step fermentation process for producing the BDO. Through the license agreement, Genomatica will continue to advance its BDO production process while BASF will produce the compound.

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