Thursday, April 15, 2010

Let's put on a Wikipedia article: what is poly(butylene succinate)? Part I: the basics.

My last post provoked good questions about the biodegradable polymer poly(butylene succinate), PBS.  What is it?  What is it good for?  How does it compare to other conventional and "green" plastics?

To be honest, normally I would suggest the first place to check would be Wikipedia, but there is no entry for poly(butylene succinate), so I guess I'll have to write one.

With that in mind, I'll make a few posts about PBS as I put together a decent wiki entry.  I'm also reaching out to experts for their input.

Part I: The Basics

First, the basics of the chemistry.

PBS typically is obtained through polycondensation of 1,4-butanediol and succinic acid. 
The attractiveness of the polymer derives in part from the chemistry and economics of these building blocks and the established nature of the polycondensation process, used in the manufature of PETE.


   succinic acid

Notice how similar these monomers are to one another.  In fact, it is suggested that in an integrated biorefinery, butanediol could be made from biobased succinic acid.   

To make PBS, equal amounts of succinic acid and 1,4-butanediol are required.  A million metric tons of 1,4-butanediol are produced annually, but only 50,000 metric tons of succinic acid.  Succinic acid accordingly is not cheap.  Changes in the demand for succinic acid and the economic of manufacture are expected to make succinic acid and PBS cheaper and more available.

Many groups around the world are working on the development of an economical process to manufacture succinic acid via fermentation, from renewable plant-derived materials and CO2

For recent coverage of the topic, read this post at, "Bio-succinic acid can beat petchems on price"

In Part II, I will finally get to the properties of PBS and how it is used in biodegradable applications.

Thank you to all who have helped so far!

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