Biodegradable polymer designed as petrochemical replacement

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Two giants of the ingredients business this week opened a US plant
to produce a biodegradable polymer designed to replace
petrochemicals in cosmetics and personal care products.

DuPont and Tate & Lyle are not being shy in labeling their Bio-PDO facility in Loudon, Tenn. as the "dawn of industrial biotechnology". The companies are attempting to cater to the rising demand for environmentally friendly products in the cosmetics and personal care markets. The two companies say the corn-based propanediol can replace petrochemicals in many products. Currently many products -- including cosmetics, hand creams, dishwashing detergents, laundry detergents, hand soaps and baby lotions -- use a petroleum-based propanediol. Bio-PDO is "similar" to nylon, the two companies stated. The two set up a joint venture company, DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products, as part of the project. The $100m plant brings together the expertise of DuPont in polymer manufacturing and Tate & Lyle in milling and fermentation. "We began looking at bio-based, renewable materials in 1993 as the natural evolution of DuPont science," said DuPont chairman and chief executive officer Chad Holliday. "The growth opportunity is exponential with applications in personal care, automotive, paints, athletic equipment, apparel and more. Bio-PDO has demonstrated that our approach to integrated science works." The plant will produce a propanediol branded as Zemea for consumer applications such as cosmetics and personal care products. A second Bio-PDO called Susterra targets industrial applications such as de-icing fluids and anti-freeze. The Zemea propanediol is a colourless pure glycol derived from the companies' corn sugar fermentation process. Zemea propanediol does not irritate or sensitise the skin, the companies claim. It can replace glycols such as propylene glycol and butylene glycol in cosmetics and personal care products, the companies claim. "Depending on your formulation needs, Zemea propanediol can function as an emollient, humectant, hand-feel modifier or solvent," the companies stated. "Zemea propanediol is the ideal solvent for natural and biotechnology-derived extracts, replacing petroleum-based glycols with a sustainable, corn-derived alternative." The ingredient has already been tested successfully in a broad array of personal care product and color cosmetic formulations, according to the Internet site of the joint venture. All the formulations can be stored at 45°C for three months, the companies claimed. "Many formulation benefits have been achieved with Zemea propanediol," the companies stated. "For example, clear shampoo formulations have very low cloud points, excellent stability, improved foaming, and require less salt to adjust the viscosity as compared to other glycols." The Loudon plant uses corn sugar or glucose from an adjoining Tate & Lyle ethanol plant. An E. coli bacteria modified by DuPont scientists breaks down the glucose.

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