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Comment Processing & Handling

First bio-based FDME pilot plant opens

By Scott Jenkins |

The world’s first pilot plant for manufacturing bio-based furan dicarboxylic methyl ester (FDME) began operating last month in Decatur, Ill.

A collaboration between DuPont Industrial Biosciences (Wilmington, Del.; www.biosciences.dupont.com) and Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM; Chicago, Ill.; www.adm.com), the 60-ton/yr pilot facility represents the next step in an ongoing commercialization process for bio-based FDME (see Chem. Eng., March 2016, p. 9; www.chemengonline.com/collaboration-lowers-cost-bio-based-fdme-process).

Bio-based FDME is made from cornstarch-derived fructose starting material, and will be used to make a range of bio-based chemicals and plastics. The fructose is dehydrated and the products from the reaction are oxidized to form furan dicarboxylic acid (FDCA). The FDCA ibio-based FDMEs then reacted with methanol, resulting in FDME. DuPont and ADM say plastics derived from bio-based FDME will ultimately be more cost-effective, efficient and sustainable than their petroleum-based counterparts.

One of the first FDME-based polymers under development by DuPont is polytrimethylene furandicarboxylate (PTF), a novel polyester also made from DuPont’s proprietary Bio-PDO (1,3-propanediol). PTF is a 100% renewable polymer, DuPont and ADM say, that, in bottling applications, can be used to create plastic bottles that are lighter-weight, more sustainable and better performing. Research by the two companies shows that PTF has up to 10–15 times the CO 2 barrier performance of traditional PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, which results in a longer shelf life. Improved barrier performance could allow lighter-weight packaging designs for beverages.

The two companies say they hope to further scale up the FDME production process in the coming months.

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