Corn + Plastic = ?

USA responsible for corn-based plastic innovation

A pilot plant at Archer Daniels Midland Co. is aiding researchers in their quest to build a commercial-scale manufacturing plant for a plastic derived from corn.

A corn-based plastic innovation? The BRAND new plastic technology, developed in partnership with the chemical giant DowDuPont, would be sold to primarily soda bottlers. Allowing them to combine it with traditional, cheaper petroleum-based plastics and still come up with a lighter, yet stronger bottle that can stay on store shelves longer.

This corn-based plastic is still in the production process, but DowDuPont who will be producing and selling the final product, appears to be confident in a release shortly.

Whether it would be situated in Decatur, USA or elsewhere hasn’t been decided yet, Saltzberg said, but the partnership with ADM will continue in the production by using corn from one of its wet corn mills in the United States starting in the next year or so.

Paul Bloom, ADM’s vice president of process chemical research and lead in the project with DowDuPont, said where their partner locates a commercial plant is completely up to them.+4

A new plastic?

Scientists and like-minded have been on the search for a new, commercially viable plastic in recent years. Plastic materials aren’t just found in water bottles; they’re used in almost every consumer product on the market — from electronics to carpeting, even clothes.

In January 2016, ADM and DuPont announced a new plastic, called polytrimethylene furandicarboxylate (PTF), which could mitigate some of those environmental concerns. PTF comes from two bio-based molecules rather than petroleum. The plant in Decatur, USA is currently mastering the process to create a BRAND new ingredient for plastic, referred to as a monomer.

Called FDME, this new monomer not only comes from corn rather than petroleum, it’s also 15 times stronger than the current conventional plastic used in bottles of fizzy drink around the world. Only in 2018 has ADM gotten the pilot plant up to full functionality.

Big businesses collaborate

‘DowDuPont and ADM both have historic legacies that trace to the country’s industrial era more than a century ago, and both have since grown into modern multinational conglomerates that stay reliably inside the Fortune 50 list of America’s biggest corporations’, stated the Herald&Review.

Both DowDuPont and ADM were major players in the American century, creating major technological advances, playing central roles in World War I and II — DuPont developed Nylon, Kevlar for bulletproof jackets.

DowDuPont’s latest invention already common in consumer markets is a new polyester called Sorona, which has launched a bevy of new clothing and carpeting materials in the past decade according to the Herald & Review.

Sorona combines one bio-based molecule derived from corn to make a stretchier, more responsive polyester that outperforms traditional elastics, according to Saltzberg.

DuPont’s success with Sorona is the story it hopes to replay with PTF. But unlike Sorona, the second monomer component that creates the plastic, also called a polymer, comes from corn as well — which is where ADM’s contribution comes to fruition.

What’s coming next?

Both DuPont and ADM are confident the new plastic could become a commercial reality, the research on FDME in Decatur, USA is only now racing to its final stage, in order to make sure it can be reliably scaled up to produce tons and tons of plastic every year.

Regardless of where a potential plant ends up being located, McCrady said that another successful corn-based product being made on a global scale would benefit local agricultural producers and global plastic manufacturers.

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