Bio-polyamide developments on the rise

The nylon market will soon see more biobased polyamides developments with this recent partnership announcement between France-based Rhodia and the Netherlands-based Avantium.
Rhodia, like its polyamide competitor France-based Arkema, has been developing biopolyamides for as long as the blog can remember. Rhodia is also now a newly acquired business of Belgium-based Solvay and if readers remember, Avantium had started developing bio-based engineering plastics with Solvay last year. 
According to the press release, the companies will explore market potential of polyamide positions based from Avantium’s YXY building blocks (biomass-based furanics). Rhodia will test the new polyamides for fibers and engineering applications (e.g. consumer goods, automotive and electronic materials). The multi-year collaboration is expected to lead to commercialization of furanics-based polyamides.

Just to remind readers how furanics are made:

Now while Avantium’s polyamides are made from sugars, most of the bio-based polyamides today are from oilseed particularly castor oil. Rhodia itself is already selling products developed from polyamide 6,10 partly made from castor oil. Solvay has also been working with Mitsubishi Gas Chemical since 2010 on developing high-temperature castor oil-based polyamides for high-performance durable applications.

The key ingredient in castor oil for polyamides use is sebacic acid also known as decanedioic acid. I covered this market since I started in ICIS Chemical Business (which was Chemical Market Reporter back then), and believe me, it was difficult to get information on sebacic acid market given that there are very few chemical players in the US using this and most are based either in India or China.

More than 70% of global sebacic acid demand is for polyamide 10,10 and 6.10, according to an industry source. In 2010, global demand for sebacic acid was 58,700 tonnes and more than 90% are produced in China.

Cathay Industrial Biotech, meanwhile, produces fermentation-based dodecanedioic acid (DDDA) where polyamide 6,12 is its largest market (applications incude monofilaments for toothbrushes, paint brushes, cosmetic brushes and in automobile use). Other producers of DDDA, which is mostly petroleum-based with butadiene as feedstock, include Evonik, Ube, and Invista.

Evonik, however, has already been marketing castor oil-based polyamide 6,10, polyamide 10,10 and polyamide 10,12 under the trademark Vestamid Terra.

I’ve mentioned Arkema who is a big producer and developer of castor oil-based polyamides and who claimed to be the only producer of castor-based polyamide 11 marketed under the tradename Rilsan. Arkema just acquired late last year China-based Hipro Polymers, a producer of castor-based polyamide 10,10; and China-based Casda Biomaterials, a producer of sebacic acid. Arkema also noted that specialty bio-sourced polyamides has a growth rate of 15-20%/year.

Hipro polymers is expected to triple its production capacity this year.

Another company working on castor-based polyamide 4,10 is DSM under the tradename EcoPaXX. The high-performance engineering plastic is being marketed in automotive and electrical markets application.

One interesting development is that DSM is also working with Elevance on bio-based high performance specialty thermoplastics. As you probably know by now, Elevance’s portfolio also focuses on 9-decenoic acid which can be a building block for producing specialty polyamides. Elevance’s bio-polyamide target includes homopolymers such as polyamide 11 and polyamide 12.

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