San Diego, April 24, 2013
Toray Industries, Inc. (headquarters: Chuo-ku, Tokyo; President, CEO & COO: Akihiro Nikkaku; hereinafter “Toray”) today jointly announced with Genomatica, Inc. (headquarters: San Diego, California, U.S.; CEO: Christophe Schilling), a leading company in renewable chemicals process technology, that Toray has successfully made a partially bio-based PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) using 1,4-butanediol (BDO) made with Genomatica’s bio-based process technology. The successful bench-level production gives Toray a significant boost towards commercial-scale production of partially bio-based PBT. Toray’s tests confirmed that PBT made using this BDO has physical properties and formability equivalent to PBT made from petroleum-derived BDO, and Toray then succeeded in making prototypes of molded components.
Toray’s plan is to produce a bio-based PBT at commercial scale using BDO made with Genomatica’s process. Toray plans to share samples of bio-based PBT with its customers during 2013 to help develop market demand. Based on results to date, Toray expects to bring products to market as soon as supplies of this BDO are readily available from one of the producers that Genomatica licenses to use its BDO process.
Genomatica has developed a process to produce BDO from renewable feedstocks rather than petroleum. This process includes an engineered microorganism, fermentation techniques and downstream processing. Genomatica’s process was used for the successful commercial-scale production of 5 million pounds of BDO in November 2012.
For its part, Toray, in 1976, became the world’s first company to succeed in the industrial production of PBT employing direct polymerization using terephthalic acid and BDO as ingredients, and has technology and knowledge related to PBT polymerization accumulated over many years. This collective expertise helped enable Toray become the first company to publicly confirm successful downstream application of BDO made using Genomatica’s process. Toray has been working closely with Genomatica for over two years, and in February 2011 produced the first PBT ‘pellets’ made with BDO samples from Genomatica.
PBT is an engineering plastic produced by polymerizing terephthalic acid and BDO. It is used in wide-ranging applications from automobile parts such as switches and ignition coils to electrical parts such as connectors and plugs, as the material has mechanical properties such as tensile strength and tensile elasticity and well-balanced physical properties such as heat resistance. PBT is the second largest use for BDO, accounting for about 29% of all BDO worldwide, or about 700,000 tons per year as PBT compound. Currently, regular PBT resin is produced using petroleum-based ingredients. Faced with issues in long-term oil supply, rising oil prices and increasing CO2 emissions, producing engineering plastic from renewable bio-based ingredients is a pressing issue. Toray is working on addressing this issue by combining its core technologies such as polymer chemistry, synthetic organic chemistry and biotechnology.
Toray's management policy states that all business strategies must place priority on the global environment in an effort to help realize a sustainable low-carbon society. Under this policy, Toray is expanding its biomass-derived materials business centered on research and development of biomass-derived polymers. It succeeded in polymerization of fully renewable bio-based PET and production fibers and films from the PET and has started working on development of bio-based nylon. Expanding the bio-based polymer business is also an important initiative central to the Green Innovation Business Expansion (GR) Project, which is part of Toray's medium-term management program "Project AP-G 2013."
Under its corporate slogan of Innovation by Chemistry, Toray will continue to focus on research and development of new advanced materials by applying the Power of Chemistry for development of a sustainable recycling-oriented society.
Toray is an integrated chemicals corporate group operating in 23 countries and regions. It fuses nanotechnology into its operations using organic synthetic chemistry, polymer chemistry and biochemistry as its core technologies. In addition to the foundation businesses of fibers & textiles and plastics & chemicals, Toray likewise promotes the global development of IT-related products, carbon fiber composite materials, pharmaceuticals and medical products, environment & engineering including water treatment and progress in other pivotal business fields.
Genomatica is a widely-acknowledged technology leader for the chemical industry. It delivers new manufacturing processes that enable its partners to produce high-volume intermediate and basic chemicals from renewable feedstocks. Genomatica’s processes are designed to achieve better economics and greater sustainability than petroleum-based manufacturing processes. Genomatica’s first process, for BDO, was used for commercial-scale production of 5 million pounds of BDO in November 2012 and Genomatica is establishing partnerships worldwide for production using its process. Additionally, Genomatica is developing a pipeline of manufacturing processes for other major chemicals; the next is for butadiene, with Versalis as partner. Genomatica’s accomplishments have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation award, ICIS Top 40 ‘Ones to Watch’, the EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, voted #1 Hottest two years in a row by Biofuels Digest, and being named a Best Place to Work by The Scientist.