NatureWorks announced today that it has signed a contract to license Plaxica’s Optipure® chemical processing technology for the production of D-lactic acid. The license provides NatureWorks with a low-cost route to produce D-lactic acid, a building block for a further range of performance Ingeo™ PLA grades. This investment is part of NatureWorks’ long term strategy for leading the market with cost effective, functional biopolymers.
In the market for more than a decade, NatureWorks continues to broaden its portfolio of functional Ingeo bioplastics used in a host of consumer and industrial products, including food serviceware, rigid and flexible packaging, toys, electronics, nonwoven filtration materials, and personal care products. Commenting upon the license investment, Bill Suehr, NatureWorks Chief Operating Officer, said, “After investigating multiple sourcing strategies for D-lactic acid, we are pleased to be licensing the Plaxica Optipure process. Access to competitively priced D-lactic acid is fundamental to NatureWorks’ strategy to broaden our Ingeo product offering.”
Suehr explained that while small volumes of D-lactic acid have previously been available from producers in Europe and Asia, they have until now been at a substantive price premium to the L-lactic acid which NatureWorks uses today. “D” and “L” lactic acid monomers are essentially identical yet “mirror images” of one another. In combination, the two can produce polymers that offer unique features such as higher melt point and melt strength. NatureWorks expects to begin sampling new Ingeo grades to customers in the second half of 2017.
Phil Goodier, Plaxica’s CEO, said, “We are delighted to be working with NatureWorks, one of the world’s leading biopolymer companies, and proud that the acknowledged brand leader in PLA has selected Plaxica’s technology. This is an important milestone in Plaxica’s development as a global technology licensing business.”
The financial terms of the license were not disclosed.
NatureWorks LLC is a company dedicated to meeting the world’s needs today without compromising the earth’s ability to meet the needs of tomorrow. NatureWorks LLC is the first company to offer a family of commercially available, low-carbon-footprint Ingeo lactides and biopolymers derived from 100 percent annually renewable resources with performance and economics that compete with oil-based intermediates, plastics, and fibers, and provide brand owners new cradle-to-cradle options after the use of their products. NatureWorks is jointly owned by Thailand’s largest chemical producer, PTT Global Chemical, and Cargill, an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products and services.
Plaxica Ltd. is a technology spin off from Imperial College London, UK, in 2009 to commercialize the research of the company’s CTO Dr. Ed Marshall and Professor Vernon Gibson. Plaxica has developed a range of process technology license products in the fields of PLA, cellulosic sugars and their derivatives. Plaxica’s majority shareholders are Touchstone Innovations Limited and Invesco Asset Management.