Breakthrough in bioplastic

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Omron Industrial Automation is a leading manufacturer of technologically advanced industrial automation products and application expertise.

For thirty years now scientists have been on the hunt for packaging material from biomass with the same properties as crude oil. Chemists have now found the solution in the form of a new catalyst. A breakthrough in the production of bioplastics for the packaging industry. Less pollution resulting in lower costs. Manufacturers will no longer feel compelled to disregard bioplastic on the grounds of quality and price.

It has long been possible to make products from biomass of the same level of quality as crude oil. But the technology makes it inefficient and expensive to use on a large scale. For over thirty years researchers have been seeking solutions to improve these processes. The new catalyst, composed of minuscule iron balls measuring 20 nanometres, produces exactly the same products, but from plant clippings instead of crude oil.

The catalyst was developed by chemists from two Dutch universities (Utrecht University and Delft University of Technology) in collaboration with Dow Benelux. The biomass is converted into gas at high temperature. The catalyst is then able to create usable building blocks for plastics and other materials in just one step. The properties remain the same, as a result of which bioplastics cannot be distinguished from normal plastics.

The catalytic process comprises three steps. The raw materials (here: ligneous biomass, such as twigs, plant stalks and clippings) are converted into a synthetic gas. These are then converted into the requisite olefins, from which plastics can be made.

In this project the chemists are focused on the production of normal plastic, and the catalyst represents a huge step forward. The primary aim is to make the production of plastic from biomass a commercial success. That never worked in the past because the production methods were more expensive than the manufacture of plastics from petroleum. Due to the catalyst, the difference in terms of cost is narrowing more and more and because of the rising price of oil, green production will even become cheaper.

And since the PE is identical to the material produced on the basis of petroleum, suppliers in the packaging industry do not have to modify their processes. The breakthrough is already being acknowledged by a great many chemical companies, as there is plenty of interest in the new catalyst.

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Omron Europe

Omron Industrial Automation is a leading manufacturer of technologically advanced industrial automation products and application expertise. From its European headquarters in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands, she operates locally in every European country and is dedicated to providing unrivaled automation products and customized expert solutions for any industry.

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