Sunday, June 10, 2012

No. 533: Developing technologies for stable supply of polypropylene (June 11, 2012)

Unlike polyethylene, polypropylene can be mass produced only from crude oil at the present stage. For fear of possible short supply of crude oil, many research teams are developing technologies for stable supply of polypropylene. Masakazu Iwamoto of Tokyo Institute of Technology developed a technology to produce propylene that is a material of polyethylene resin from bioethanol using a special catalyst. He confirmed that about 60% of ethanol changed propylene. According to the estimates of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, it is possible to reduce 3 million tons of CO2 should one million ton of polypropylene be produced entirely by the new technology. It is planned that Idemitsu Kosan builds mass production equipment and Sumitomo Chemical produces polypropylene for Toyota.

Mitsui Chemical and Hiroshi Shimizu of Osaka University successfully made isopropanol from genetically-modified Bacillus coli. Isopropanol is a kind of alcohol and used as a raw material of polypropylene. The genetically-modified Bacillus coli changes to Isopropanol in two days if it is put into a sugar solution extracted from plant fibers. It is possible to produce propylene by extracting the moisture of isopropanol. For the purpose of calculation, about 250 g of propylene can be made from 1 kg of sugar. His technology has more than 10 times higher productivity than the existing technology, and it can be put into practical use should the response speed grow two times faster. 

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