Avantium, Rhodia lock up partnership to develop biopolyamides

By Bryan Sims | January 27, 2012

Dutch biotech firm Avantium and global specialty chemical giant Rhodia, member of the Solvay group, have entered into a multiyear exclusive partnership to jointly develop and commercialize a new class of biobased polyamides targeting a range of applications. The partnership expands and completes the companies’ previously announced development agreement in the field of biobased engineering plastics in June.

Building on the newly combined forces of Rhodia and Solvay, the extended relationship offers the partners a unique opportunity to explore a wide range of compositions and applications based on Avantium’s YXY (pronounced “icksy”) technology in the larger polyamide sector. Avantium’s patented catalytic YXY technology platform is capable of producing a host of furanics-based chemical building blocks from sugar and starch feedstocks. In December, Avantium officially opened its 40 ton per year pilot-scale production facility in the Geleen, Netherlands, which serves to demonstrate Avantium’s YXY technology for the production of its furanic building blocks for biobased chemicals and fuels. In addition to Rhodia and Solvay, the pilot plant will also produce chemical building blocks and plastics for Avantium’s other development partners such as Coca-Cola and Teijin Aramid.

“Rhodia is a world-leading player in the development, manufacturing and supply of polyamides,” commented Tom van Aken, CEO of Avantium. “We are very pleased to work with Rhodia on developing performing, sustainable and competitive solutions for a broad range of customers. Together with our existing partnerships in polyamides, we are now completely covering all application areas for polyamides on the basis of our green building blocks.”

Under the finalized joint development partnership, Avantium and Rhodia intend to explore the market potential of polyamide compositions on the basis of YXY building blocks. Produced from renewable and biobased feedstock, the compositions are expected to exhibit a superior environmental profile while simultaneously delivering applicative performance at competitive prices. Rhodia will test these new polyamides for fibers and engineering applications in various areas such as consumer goods, automotive and electronic materials.

“This collaboration perfectly fits with our strategy to deliver new sustainable products to our markets and will combine our know-how in polyamides with Avantium’s YXY technology to produce building blocks for green materials,” said Louis Neltner, vice president of R&D for Rhodia. “This open innovation partnership is inspiring for our teams and we are confident that it will deliver breakthroughs in the development of biobased competitive polyamides.”

Forging partnerships with emerging biotech firms in an effort to introduce sustainable, biobased materials to the global market is not new for Rhodia. In October, Rhodia and California-based biobutanol developer Cobalt Technologies formed a strategic alliance to jointly develop biobased n-butanol biorefineries throughout Latin America for the fuels and chemicals market using sugarcane bagasse as feedstock. These commercial-scale facilities will be designed to produce an estimated 40,000 tons of biobased n-butanol annually.