AmberWorks, a new joint venture between polylactic acid maker NatureWorks and biochemicals company BioAmber, is developing new compounds that will greatly expand the property range of bioplastics, a NatureWorks official said.
BioAmber produces bio-based succinic acid, a feedstock for bio-based modified polybutylene succinic polymers (mPBS).
The companies are targeting biodegradable food service products such as injection moulded cutlery and thermoformed cups, lids and clamshell containers, said Steve Davies, NatureWorks director of marketing and public affairs. NatureWorks, based in the US, makes Ingeo-brand PLA.
AmberWorks now has samples of the first two grades for development by customers: Ingeo AW 200 D for thermoforming and Ingeo AW 300 D for injection moulding. The material is approved for food contact by the US Food and Drug Administration, Davies said.
“We want to get them out to the market,” he said.
Montreal-based BioAmber currently makes bio-succinic acid at an industrial fermenting plant in Pomacle, France. BioAmber plans to build a plant in Ontario, Canada, under a partnership with Mitsui.
That plant, set to open in 2013, will make bio-succinic acid as well as 1,4 butanediol (BDO), the two building blocks to manufacture mPBS. The joint venture will use commercially available PBS until production of mPBS begins.
Marc Verbruggen, president and CEO of NatureWorks, said the joint venture enables his company to broaden its existing portfolio. The new materials expand Ingeo properties in terms of flexibility, toughness and heat resistance.
Davies said PBS offers some important properties, but it has seen limited use over the years because it's expensive. NatureWorks believes the bio-based PBS eventually will be cheaper than the traditional petroleum based material, which will expand the use of PBS.
Davies said BioAmber had considered compounding the material in-house, but decided to contact NatureWorks so the two companies could work together.