June 6, 2012

Ajinomoto, Bridgestone in bio-isoprene

 The race for bio-based synthetic rubber development continues with new players - Japan-based specialty chemical firm Ajinomoto and tire company Bridgestone Corp.

According to Ajinomoto's press release, the two companies will jointly developed isoprene ( a key chemical intermediate for synthetic rubber manufacture) using biomass for feedstock. The companies have been jointly doing research since June 2011.
Ajinomoto said it has already successfully manufactured bio-isoprene at a laboratory-scale using fermentation process, and that Bridgestone has also succesfully produce polyisoprene rubber using the material.
Ajinomoto and Bridgestone said they plan to decide on the potential for commercialization in 2013. It seems Ajinomoto has been especially active this year in the bio-based chemicals arena such as its partnership with Toray on the development of nylon raw material 1,5 pentanediamine using plant-based amino acid lysine.
Back to isoprene, another tire and rubber company working on bio-based isoprene is Goodyear with its partner DuPont Industrial Biosciences. Goodyear said in March that the two companies have already demonstrated proof of the technology through the production of a prototype tire made with DuPont and Goodyear's BioIsoprene monomer.
The two companies said they expect additional investments to establish pilot plant operations and manufacturing infrastructure. Unfortunately, no timeline has been disclosed.
European rubber and tire company Michelin is also working with US-based Amyris for the development of bio-isoprene using Amyris' farnesene. Amyris expects to begin commercialization of the bio-isoprene in 2015, with Michelin reportedly committing off-take columes on a ten years basis.
Amyris is also working with Japan chemical firm Kuraray to develop high-polymers by replacing petroleum-based butadiene and isoprene feedstock with Amyris' farnesene molecule.
Other companies working on bio-based chemical feedstock for synthetic rubbers includes:
Glycos Biotechnologies - bio-based isoprene
Aemetis - bio-based isoprene
Genomatica - bio-based butadiene
Global Bioenergies - bio-based butadiene in collaboration with Synthos. Bio-based isobutene (which can be converted to isoprene) in collaboration with LanzaTech.
Elevance - bio-based rubber compounds in collaboration with Hutchinson Worldwide
Gevo - bio-based rubber compounds in collaboration with Lanxess
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