Thursday, February 20, 2014

Are the Challenges of Introducing Biobased Polymers New or Just the Same-Old Same-Old?

History has shown that introducing a new polymeric resin is a difficult matter. Specifically, I am speaking of polymers that are used for molding or otherwise creating articles. For reasons that I'm not exactly sure about, new coating resins are constantly arriving, but that is another subject for another day. As for polymers used in making articles, there are already so many existing materials covering such a wide range of properties that it is difficult to find huge gaps that need filling. Sure, we would love to have PEEK performance for a PE price, but we know that isn't going to happen anytime soon (if ever).

I said that history has supported this conclusion, and I have blogged about this in the past. Ultem took 15 years to finally show a profit and Dow has filled entire landfills with their withdrawn products that never succeeded like they anticipated (or least needed them to succeed).

This last decade has seen a lot of attempted new polymer introductions, particularly those that are "bio-based" (to whatever degree you wish to define it). Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA's), the plastic made from microbial life (the microbes store their excess energy as PHA, much like we humans store our excess energy as triglycerides) have gotten nowhere despite the efforts of even such big name players as P & G. PLA has been a little more successful, but it still is limited by a number of performance limitations (such as heat much above 65 oC - NO SOUP FOR YOU!). Cereplast has filed for bankruptcy this week, further casting doubts about the viability of these efforts.

Yet I see this as exactly the same challenges that Ultem, Carilon, Index, Questra and other new resins have faced, while another blogger is suggesting that this is a unique challenge only for "green" resins. What do you think - is this a new, unique challenge that is part of the current environment, or something that is inherent challenging for any new resin, bio-based or otherwise?

Previous Years
February 20, 2013 - Rumor has it...

February 20, 2012 - A Green Polyethylene - Is It Worth the Effort?

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