The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has presented its Presidential Green Chemistry award to DuPont for the company's innovation that uses corn — instead of conventional petroleum-based processes — to produce the latest polymer platform for use in clothing, carpets and automobile interiors.
DuPont, with joint development partner Genencor International, recently developed a bio-based process that uses renewable resources — like corn — instead of typical petrochemicals.
Through metabolic engineering of biochemical pathways, a microorganism was engineered to use sugars from corn in a fermentation-based process as the basis for production of 1,3 propanediol (PDO), the key building block for DuPont Sorona.
Sorona is the company's newest polymer platform that can be used in applications like textile apparel, carpeting and packaging.
The new bio-based method uses less energy, reduces emissions, and employs renewable resources compared to traditional petrochemical processes.
“As a science company whose mission is sustainable growth, DuPont is committed to research initiatives that provide shareholder and societal value while reducing our environmental footprint,” said Thomas M. Connelly, DuPont senior vice president and chief science and technology officer.
“The path to bio-based Sorona combines the emerging discipline of metabolic engineering with the leading polymer capabilities of DuPont.”
Currently, DuPont uses a petrochemical-based PDO to produce the Sorona polymer in Kinston, N.C.
DuPont is producing corn-derived PDO at a pilot facility in Decatur, Ill., where carbohydrate processor Tate & Lyle operates a fermentation plant. DuPont is developing plans to construct a large-scale PDO fermentation facility based on the new bio-process.
Fibers with Sorona offer unique advantages over both polyester and nylon because they have: stain-resistance, exceptional softness, comfort stretch and recovery, UV- and chlorine-resistance.
Since the early 1990s, DuPont has been recognized as a leader in sustainability, earning a number of awards, including the World Environment Center's Gold Medal.
DuPont has consistently earned high marks on social responsibility and environmental progress in surveys such as Fortune Magazine's “Most Admired Companies” and the Financial Times PricewaterhouseCoopers “World's Most Respected Companies.”
As part of its sustainable growth mission, DuPont has set four goals for 2010, supplementing existing goals:
- To derive 25 percent of revenues from non-depletable resources.
- To reduce global carbon-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent, using 1990 as a base year. The company has already surpassed this goal with a 68 percent reduction.
- To hold energy use flat using 1990 as a base year.
- To source 10 percent of the company's global energy use in the year 2010 from renewable resources.
Earlier this year, DuPont became a founding member of the Chicago Climate Exchange, a voluntary cap-and-trade program for reducing and trading greenhouse gas emissions. Members of the Chicago Climate Exchange have made a commitment to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by 4 percent below the average of their 1998-2001 baseline by 2006.
The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge awards have been presented annually since 1996 by EPA to recognize businesses and individuals who have discovered innovative ways to significantly reduce pollution at its sources and have used chemistry to improve the environment.
An independent panel of technical experts from government, industry, academia and the non-profit sector judges nominations for the awards.