23 November 2005

Dupont Develops Biobased Polymers And Fibers

Sorona is a corn-based polymer that is considered revolutionary in the textile world. For DuPont executives, it’s a new frontier moving from a petroleum-based manufacturing process to one using the age-old basic science of fermentation.

John Ranieri, DuPont’s vice-president of bio-based materials in Wilmington, Del., said the plant in Kinston will become the nucleus from which all the fiber’s future global prospects will grow. Here’s what DuPont scientists did.

They developed a way to produce Bio-PDO, a key Sorona ingredient, from corn. While developing the process, they also discovered another benefit. The whole process used 40 percent less petroleum-based fuel than its traditional products. “Now you’re looking at using 10 million less gallons a year in a petroleum-based manufacturing process,” Ranieri said. “We’re reducing our dependence on oil and we’re further protecting the environment.”

A DuPont plant under final construction phases in Loudon County, Tenn., will hatch out the Bio-PDO from a genetically altered bacteria very similar to e-coli. A fermentation process in corn-derived sugar is the catalyst by which the process begins. Once that takes place, the end result – the Bio-PDO – will be shipped to Kinston. After the Sorona manufacturing process is completed, that product will be sent to some of DuPont’s worldwide flooring customers, including its newest, Mohawk carpets.

Sorona is now used primarily for flooring and carpets, providing a soft, resilient and stain-resistant fiber. DuPont knows there is a market ready and waiting for the fiber in clothing and other end products, Ranieri said. China is already making similar fabrics available commercially. For DuPont and for the community, the step forward to a more environmentally friendly product is a welcome change. “Sorona leaves a much smaller environmental footprint,” Ranieri said.

The Loudon, Tenn. plant is expected to ship 100 million pounds a year of the Bio-PDO to Kinston. This plant is expected to grow its current production of the polymer from 20 million pounds a year to more than 90 million pounds by 2007. “Polyester is no longer a part of DuPont here,” DuPont Kinston Plant Manager Harold Thomas said. “This product offers a sustainable solution to the local economy and the environment.”

Source: www.kinston.com, news of 2005-11-23.

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