Saturday, November 3, 2012

No. 637: Application of biomaterials is spreading (2/2) (November 4, 2012)

Business trend:
Japanese leading trading companies are expanding the business of biomaterials in alliance with foreign companies. Itochu invested in ZeaChem of the U.S. that has the technology to refine bioethanol from plants using an enzyme collected from intestinal microorganism of termite. Mitsui and Co. is constructing the world’s largest plant to produce bio resins in Brazil in alliance with Dow Chemical of the U.S. They will establish an integrated system of production from raw material to finished product inside the premises with a view to producing bioresins at a cost comparable to producing them using oil-derived materials.

The Japanese government decided to take initiative in developing an enzyme for effective production of resin materials from wood, and held a meeting with some 30 leading companies in the related fields. It plans to allocate a budget of several billions of yen for 2-3 years for joint research. Some Japanese companies have already been developing advance technology for biomaterials. Ajinomoto is producing 1 million ton of amino acids annually by fermenting various plant materials like rice and tapioca. Ajinomoto may be the only company in the world that has an integrated system to procure plant materials, transport them, and utilize the effluent. Using Ajinomoto’s technology, Bridgestone is developing a technology to produce synthetic rubber from plant. Ajinomoto is developing a microorganism for the production of isoprene through fermentation, while Bridgestone will process isoprene to rubber using the enzyme technology.

Leading engineering companies are also energetic in developing biomaterials. JGC created a special team three years ago to develop large-scale equipment for effective production of resin materials with the help of microorganisms. Western companies are ahead of Japanese companies in developing such natural resources as oil, but Japanese companies are trying hard to increase the presence in the production and application of biomaterials.  

Please click here to see images of Toyota cars 20 years later that employs lots of biomaterials.

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