The 2008 Frost & Sullivan European Polylactic Production Technology Innovation of the Year Award in the field of Polylactic Acid Production goes to PURAC, Sulzer Chemtech and Synbra Technology for jointly developing a new, cost-effective polymerisation process to produce high-quality polylactic acid (PLA) from a biorenewable resource. This proprietary process shared by PURAC, Sulzer Chemtech and Synbra Technology relies on polymerisation and devolatilisation technology to efficiently produce a range of PLA products from the specialty lactides supplied by PURAC. This unique offering will significantly reduce process and product development times, enabling faster and more reliable market entry for PLA producers.
The companies are lauded for their efforts at realising a novel, economical polymerisation process and their commitment toward commercialising this technology for varied high-performance applications," notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Aravind Chander. "The trend toward biorenewable materials and products is likely to set PURAC-Sulzer's approach as a benchmark in the arena of PLA manufacture and processing."
"The new technology will enable a more efficient production of different PLA products and will reduce the process and product development time," explains Chander. "In addition, the new process requires limited investment and will, therefore, be more affordable, significantly lowering the entry barrier for PLA production."
Since PURAC produces 2 different lactides (D and L), new and innovative PLA polymers (like stereocomplexes), and better properties (like better high temperature stability), can become a reality. Based on this polymerisation technology, Synbra Technology has recently developed its first product; expanded PLA using the proprietary technology platform. The foamed product, BioFoam(®), made from the PLA, is complementary to the company's wide range of polystyrene foam products. The new process requires substantially lower investment and has unmatched potential for economic scale-up to high volumes. "BioFoam(®) is beneficial due to its ease of handling, durability, cleanliness, and excellent quality," states Chander. "Because of its closed-cell structure, BioFoam(®) is moisture proof to prevent distortion and contamination."
The company has targeted a capacity of 5,000 tpa to be operational by the end of 2009. Synbra Technology intends to assume a leading position in Europe as a supplier of biologically degradable polymers from renewable sources and plans to expand the PLA capacity to 50,000 tpa.