Tech Transfer eNews Blog

U Minnesota start-up creates manufacturing chemicals from feedstocks


By David Schwartz
Published: March 20th, 2013

A start-up from the University of Minnesota has developed a method to synthesize chemicals for manufacturing from renewable feedstocks.

Kechun Zhang, professor of chemical engineering at U of M, invented the eco-friendly process, which yields chemicals similar to those created using petroleum-based materials. This means it would not take much for existing manufacturing processes to adapt.

“This technology is especially attractive because Dr. Zhang has done a tremendous amount of development in the lab,” says William Faulkner, who co-founded the start-up Ascenix BioTechnologies with Zhang through the U of M Office for Technology Commercialization. “It’s advanced to the point where we’re already preparing for scale-up of the technology.”

The company will focus on creating methlymethacrylate (MMA), a chemical used to make acrylic glass, paints and coatings, automotive parts and electronics. More than 6 billion pounds of this chemical are produced each year. Zhang and Faulkner aim to make that production safer — both for workers and the environment — as well as cheaper, since it would no longer rely on fluctuating petroleum prices.

“If you were at a hockey arena and looked at a piece of glass made from petroleum, and compared it to one made through our process, it would appear the same,” says Faulkner. “Plus, we’re able to do it much more economically than the incumbent petroleum processes.”

Source: Sustainable Plant

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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