ICIS Innovation Awards 2013 - Sustainability

Best Innovation for Sustainability

This category is designed to recognise companies that have incorporated the ideas of sustainability into their innovation programmes and product and process developments as well as the way they do business.

After the first round of judging in mid-July, two companies and their innovations were successfully shortlisted and went forward to the final judging session on 6 September.

The 2013 winner is:


Megan Weber

Converting plant sugars into paraxylene for renewable, recyclable packaging and fibres

Virent’s innovative technology catalytically transforms 100% renewable sources, such as corn or sugar, into paraxylene (PX). The process is based on a novel combination of Virent’s Aqueous Phase Reforming (APR) technology with modified conventional catalytic processing technologies. This BioForming process converts aqueous carbohydrate solutions into a mix of hydrocarbons and expands the utility of the APR process in combination with catalysts and reactor systems similar to those found in standard refineries and petrochemical complexes. In 2011, Virent and Coca-Cola formed a partnership to accelerate production of Virent’s BioFormPX paraxylene. Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle is currently made with up to 30% bio-based material: Virent’s BioFormPX is the missing ingredient needed to make a 100% bio-based PET.

Shortlisted entries for 2013:


Jeremy Whittaker

A building block for better plastic sustainability

With Styroflex 2G66, Styrolution has created a material that delivers both improved sustainability and improved product performance. Originally designed to mimic and replace PVC, Styroflex outperformed PVC in stretch film and showed significant sustainable impact by improving palette stretch hoods and load stability while reducing weight, materials, energy use and complexity for palette transport. While PVC remained a viable and low-cost alternative, Styroflex remained a hidden gem. That is, until Styrolution repurposed the innovation for use in mechanical recycling, unlocking its tremendous potential as a compatibiliser, property enhancer and versatile building block for mass customising commodity polymers. Commodities like polystyrene or ABS can be converted into highly specialised applications just by adding Styroflex.

The winner in this category for 2012 was:


Nicolas Barthel, Jean-Jacques Braconnier, Alain Rollat and Frederic Carencotte

The new rare earths urban mine

With growing usage in hi-tech products and tight supply, a sustainable supply of rare earth elements is a growing concern. France’s Rhodia, part of Belgium’s Solvay, has been looking at innovative ways of recycling rare earth metals from various sources. Its Coleop’Terre project focuses on the recovery of phosphor powders from energy-saving lightbulbs. The powder, containing 10-20% rare earths, is processed to recover a range of compounds using liquid-liquid separation technologies. These can then be re-used to prepare new phosphor precursors, thus closing the loop. Rhodia expects to treat 1,500 tonnes/year initially at plants in Saint Fons (concentration) and La Rochelle (separation and precursor production).

Shortlisted entries for 2012 were:


Marc Audenaert

A polymer composite 100%-based on renewable materials

Automotive and electronic producers are seeking lighter and more environmentally-friendly materials based on renewable feedstocks. In response, France’s Arkema has developed a fibre-reinforced polyamide using flax fibres to replace glass fibres, resulting in an all-biobased thermoplastic composite with comparable mechanical performance. Arkema worked with flax fibre specialist Dehondt and extruder producer Clextral to identify a suitable technical flax fibre and ways to incorporate it into Arkema’s castor-oil based Rilsan polyamide 11.

The innovation provides lighter weight, better recyclability and a lower environmental footprint in terms of energy and water use. The new material can compete with conventional glass-fibre-reinforced polyamide 66, offering a 30% weight saving.


David Darwin

Hycrete concrete admixtures for sustainable construction

Concrete is a major construction material, and by improving its in-use lifetime and reducing landfill after demolition, there are big sustainability gains to be won. US-based Hycrete has developed an admixture technology that makes concrete hydrophobic – prolonging its life by reducing chloride and sulphate attack and steel-reinforcement corrosion. The innovation is based on the use of water-based, low odour, nonhazardous additives, such as salts of alkenyl-substituted succinic acid which, in addition, mean Hycrete liquid admixtures are comprised of 75% recycled materials. Mixing the waterproofing system into the concrete avoids traditional high-VOC surface applied systems. Avoidance of adhered asphalt membranes means the concrete need not be landfilled after demolition.

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