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  • ETH research team develops energy-efficient and fast PEF production method

    15.08.2018

    "Polymers and plastics are very useful materials that make a wide range of everyday applications possible in the first place. Lighter cars, smartphones, modern clothes and many medical devices would not exist if we hadn't invented polymers,"says Jan-Georg Rosenboom.

    Rosenboom is a fresh PhD graduate in the research group of ETH professor Massimo Morbidelli at the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences. "The question is how we can reduce the negative environmental impact of plastic while maintaining its benefits for our society," he added.

    Massimo Morbidelli's group at ETH Zurich university for science and technology is investigating a promising bioplastic called polyethylene furanoate (PEF). PEF is chemically very similar to PET but consists of 100% renewable raw materials such as forestry and agricultural wastes. PEF bottles, for example, require less material, are lighter and more stable than their PET competitors and make beverages last longer. Although PEF is not biodegradable, it can be incinerated in an environmentally friendly manner besides recycling, as no additional CO2 emissions are produced.

    The fact that PEF has not yet been able to establish itself on the market is primarily due to its time- and energy-intensive production. ETH doctoral students Jan-Georg Rosenboom and Peter Fleckenstein, together with ETH professor Giuseppe Storti, have now developed a method that could enable the commercial breakthrough of PEF. Their research results were published in the journal Nature Communications.

    "Our method reduces production time from several days to a few hours. In addition, discoloration in the end product can be avoided in contrast to previous processes," says Jan-Georg Rosenboom and explains: "Instead of making the usual "rope-like" polymer chains with two end points react, we first tie rings from the latter, which thus have no ends anymore. These rings can then be polymerized to PEF much more quickly and in a controlled manner. This is because no chemical by-products are produced and have to be removed, when the rings are opened and connected to form the final long "polymer rope". The very fast reaction within minutes enables PEF products that are superior in material properties to PET and reduces energy requirements.”

    s

    PEF bioplastics are indistinguishable from conventional PET on the outside. (Photograph: ETH Zurich / Jan-Georg Rosenboom)


    In addition, the method of ring opening allows a precise adjustment of the product quality, which was not possible with the previous production process. Thus, the new method could also be interesting for the production of other types of plastics and bioplastics. Due to its good material properties, the PEF could possibly also replace multilayer materials that are difficult to recycle.

    Currently, the scientists are working with Sulzer to investigate how the new process could be implemented in industrial mass production. Despite the many advantages offered by PEF, it cannot solve all existing problems on its own, says Rosenboom, stressing: "Education and an improved awareness of how to handle plastics will continue to be crucial in order to stop the increasing environmental pollution. However, progress in manufacturing and recycling technologies will facilitate the transition towards a sustainable society".

    https://www.ethz.ch


    Reference:Rosenboom JG, Hohl DK, Fleckenstein P, Storti G, Morbidelli M: Bottle-grade polyethylene furanoate from ring-opening polymerisation of cyclic oligomers. Nature Communications, 24 July 2018, doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05147-y


  • SECOS Group’s new Malaysian plant comes on stream

    14.08.2018

    Melbourne, Australia-based SECOS Group Limited, a leading developer and manufacturer of sustainable packaging materials, has announced that its new Malaysian resin plant successfully went live on 31 July 2018.

    zThe company delivered the initial production of SECOS resin to local customers and trials of the resin have been fully approved for commercial supply.
    SECOS plans to ramp up production at the new facility over the coming months to meet growing demand for the company’s proprietary resins while maintaining the highest levels of quality control. According to SECOS, the global trend toward sustainable packaging is fuelling the company’s growth. SECOS has an annual production capacity of 10,000 tonnes of bioplastic resins, 15,000 tonnes of cast film and 2,000 tonnes of blown film and finished products.
    SECOS, which was was formed through the merger of Cardia Bioplastics and Stellar Films Group in April 2015, holds a strong patent portfolio. The company develops, manufactures and markets proprietary high-quality cast films and patented renewable resource-based materials and finished products for the global packaging and plastic products industries. It supplies its proprietary biodegradable resins, packaging products and high-quality cast films to a blue-chip global customer base.
    The company has a Product Development Centre and manufacturing plant for resins and finished products in Nanjing, China, with manufacturing plants for high quality cast films in Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    https://www.secosgroup.com.au

  • New biocomposite kitchen utensils with up to 80% smaller carbon footprint

    13.08.2018

    Stora Enso and Norwegian manufacturer of household products Orthex have collaborated on the development and production of a new range of kitchen utensils made from a biocomposite which combines the best qualities of wood and plastic.

    mThe biobased material offers a high-quality replacement for oil-based plastic. The new material is made from spruce and sugarcane, which reduces the carbon footprint of the products by up to 80%, and contain 98% bio-based material.
    In recent years, the Finnish plastics industry has actively moved towards the use of innovative bio and recycling materials, while at the same time, the forest industry developed wood-based materials to replace fossil fuel-derived raw materials. Both Stora Enso and Orthex believe in the global growth of the market for bio-based products, viewing these materials as creating opportunities for both raw material suppliers and consumer product manufacturers.
    The biocomposite used in the new products comes from Stora Enso’s Hylte Mill in Sweden. Stora Enso’s DuraSense biocomposites are produced from spruce and pine from sustainably managed and certified Swedish forests.
    “The Stora Enso biocomposite is a new innovative raw material which helps create the desired properties in the products. The wood used in the biocomposite is obtained from side streams of wood products and pulp production, which means that the wood material is utilised optimally,” explained Patricia Oddshammar, Head of Biocomposites at Stora Enso.
    “The properties of the new products made from wood-based materials correspond to those of similar plastic utensils: the products are hard, durable, hygienic and dishwasher-safe. The wood contained in the biocomposite makes the material stronger and harder. We are now launching nine GastroMax BIO products made of bio-based materials for home kitchens. In their product group, products that contain 98% bio materials are uniquely innovative,” said Orthex CEO Alexander Rosenlew.
    The majority of the oil-based plastic materials used today can be replaced by biocomposite granules, i.e. renewable wood.
    “With the help of biocomposites, Stora Enso can expand to new markets and industries traditionally dominated by plastics. The DuraSense biocomposite is the perfect material for furniture, pallets, tools and car furnishing as well as for various consumer products from toys, tooth brushes, beauty and lifestyle products to kitchen utensils, garden furniture and disposable cutlery,” Oddshammar said.
    Stora Enso’s DuraSense biocomposite is composed of a combination of wood fibres and recycled or bio-based polymers. The material developed for Orthex’s new GastroMax BIO products is a blend of wood fibre with sugarcane. Depending on the product, the bioplastic/wood biocomposite may reduce the carbon footprint of the product by up to 80% compared to virgin plastics.

    http://www.orthexgroup.com, http://www.storaenso.com

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