Scientists at San Diego-based Genomatica, which is developing a plant-based nylon. GENOMATICA
We have been watching and waiting for this range of products to have their day, and Jim Robbins delivers an up to date account that gives hope:
From Lab to Market: Bio-Based Products Are Gaining Momentum
A 3D-printed house made from sawdust and other timber industry waste by the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. UNIVERSITY OF MAINE
Propelled by government investment and shareholder demand, manufacturers are pushing to get bio-based products into the marketplace. These new materials — made from plants, fungi, and microbes — aim to replace those that contain toxins and are difficult to recycle or reuse.
In the 1930s, the DuPont company created the world’s first nylon, a synthetic polymer made from petroleum. The product first appeared in bristles for toothbrushes, but eventually it would be used for a broad range of products, from stockings to blouses, carpets, food packaging, and even dental floss.
Nylon is still widely used, but, like other plastics, it has environmental downsides: it is made from a nonrenewable resource; its production generates nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas; it doesn’t biodegrade; and it sheds microfibers that end up in food, water, plants, animals, and even the clouds.
Laminated timber beams and floors used in the construction of Ascent, a 25-story apartment building in Milwaukee. THORNTON TOMASETTI
Now, however, a San Diego-based company called Genomatica is offering an alternative: a so-called plant-based nylon made through biosynthesis, in which a genetically engineered microorganism ferments plant sugars to create a chemical intermediate that can be turned into nylon-6 polymer chips, and then textiles. The company has partnered with Lululemon, Unilever, and others to manufacture this and other bio-based products that safely decompose. Continue reading →