Teknor Apex Company has signed a licensing agreement with Cerestech Inc. on a unique method for blending relatively low-cost thermoplastic starch (TPS) with synthetic polymers or other bioplastics while retaining high levels of key performance properties, the companies announced jointly.
The agreement grants Teknor Apex exclusive worldwide rights to manufacture and market products based on Cerestech's patented technology and to sub-license use of the blending process. The technology involves preparing TPS from starch granules and then combining it as a masterbatch with bioplastics like polylactic acid (PLA) or polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), or with petrochemical-based polymers such as polyethylene.
"Teknor Apex is making this entry into the growing bioplastics market as a first step toward developing a family of bio-sustainable compounds," said Dr. Robert S Brookman, vice president for business development. "We intend to provide a range of options for customers looking to offer products that derive from renewable resources."
The Cerestech process is based on patented technology developed by Dr. Basil Favis, who founded Cerestech Inc. as a spinoff company from the École Polytechnique de Montréal. The technology makes it possible to combine other polymers with TPS from vegetable sources like corn, wheat, or potato while achieving better performance properties than are typical for conventional starch-containing blends, said Dr. John Andries, Teknor Apex senior vice president of technology.
"The Cerestech technology yields blends that, even at high starch loadings, retain a substantial portion of the mechanical properties of the bioplastic or synthetic base polymers," Dr. Andries said. "They exhibit lower levels of sensitivity to moisture than many other starch-containing plastics, are tranlucent, printable, and sealable, and can be formulated for biodegradable applications."
Teknor Apex will use the technology to produce both masterbatches and ready-to-process compounds and anticipates extruded and injection molded applications in packaging, automotive, trash bag, and other markets. The company is installing a pilot plant at its world headquarters in Pawtucket, RI, U.S.A. Commercial production is anticipated to begin in Pawtucket in 2009.
"As with all of our other products, we expect to transfer our bioplastics technology to Teknor Apex plants in China, Singapore, and the UK as demand arises," Dr. Brookman said. "We are also prepared to sub-license the technology, particularly to processors of high-volume products that would benefit from the economies of compounding bioplastics in-house."