Making “Green” Nylon

verdezyneNylon is used to fashion numerous industrial and consumer goods ranging from clothes to carpets. But most of it is produced from petrochemicals. So a small company has devised a way to make adipic acid, a building block for nylon 6,6, from sustainable feedstocks, reports Timothy Hurst for Earth & Industry.

He writes:

Verdezyne, which just opened a pilot plant in Carlsbad, California, has developed a fermentation process to make adipic acid from renewable sources like non-food based vegetable oils. The plant is the first-ever to produce bio-based adipic acid at scale from a non-petroleum source. And according to the company CEO, they can do so cheaper and with fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional methods of production.

Verdezyne’s CEO E. William Radney told Hurst that “customers want a nylon that is not petroleum-based,” and that life-cycle analysis shows that Verdezyne’s process will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately two tons per ton of adipic acid.

Hurst notes that current processes used to make adipic acid from petrochemicals yield as much as four tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per ton of adipic acid.

Verdezyne is eyeing the textiles, carpet, and engineered plastics market. The company is currently working on scale-up of the new process, and is in discussions with various partners for commercialization, but hopes to be in production in about 18 months.

For now, Hurst writes, “Verdezyne expects to produce about 5 to 15 kilograms of the bio-adipic acid per week, just a tiny sliver of the nearly 5 million gallons of adipic acid produced every week using petrochemicals.”

Source: “Company First to Make Nylon Precursor Without Petrochemicals,” Earth & Industry, 12/30/11
Image of Verdezyne logo is used under Fair Use: Reporting.

Rachel Petkewich is a freelance science writer and editor. She has worked as a research scientist in the chemical industry and spent eight years as a staff writer and editor at various science journals and magazines, including Chemical & Engineering News.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *