LG Chem and GS Caltex to develop 1,4-BDO organic compound for white biotechnology partnership

By Lim Chang-won Posted : July 28, 2022, 12:49 Updated : October 13, 2023, 17:48

[Courtesy of LG Chem]

SEOUL -- LG Chem will work with GS Caltex, a major refiner in South Korea, to develop technology on 1,4-Butanediol, an organic compound used as a solvent and in the manufacture of some types of plastics, elastic fibers and polyurethanes, as part of their cooperation in the white biotechnology industry that focuses on the creation and distribution of biodegradable bioplastics. 

1,4-Butanediol (1,4-BDO) is a highly versatile intermediate capable of undergoing a number of types of chemical reactions leading to a wide range of useful products including polyurethanes, engineering resin PBT, and polyvinyl pyrrolidone (PVP), a water-soluble polymer used in various personal care and pharmaceutical applications.

LG Chem and GS Caltex would actively discuss ways to realize a sustainable bio ecosystem after they held a groundbreaking ceremony on July 28 for a demonstration plant to produce 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3HP) prototypes by 2023 at a GS Caltex base in the southern port cityu of Yeosu. 

3HP is a biodegradable plastic material produced through a microorganism fermenting process of bio-materials such as glucose and unrefined glycerol derived from vegetable oil. It is drawing attention as a next-generation platform chemical that can be used as raw materials for a variety of materials including biodegradable plastic and super absorbent polymers used in diapers, paints, adhesives and glues, carbon fiber and coating materials. 

LG Chem’s fermented production technology will be combined with GS Caltex’s process facility technologies. "It is very meaningful that South Korea's leading oil chemical companies have joined hands for a sustainable future," LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol said in a statement on July 28.

LG Chem has used 3HP fermenting technologies to develop poly lactate 3-hydroxypropionate (PLH), a biodegradable material that can configure mechanical properties equivalent to synthetic resins.

South Korea nurtures the white biotechnology industry that focuses on the creation and distribution of biodegradable bioplastics. White biotechnology is an area of science that is devoted to using living cells collected from yeast, molds, microorganisms and plants, and enzymes to create products that can be easily degraded.

LG Chem is the first company to develop flexible lactic acid and polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is a biodegradable plastic based on lactic acid that is produced by fermenting and refining glucose extracted from corn and is mainly used for food packaging containers and tableware. It comprises an eco-friendly material that is naturally decomposed in several months by microorganisms under certain conditions.

The chemical company has also tried to commercialize polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT), a biodegradable random copolymer that makes it ideal for combination with other biodegradable polymers. Many degradable plastic products have failed to attract attention because of their weak durability, while some bioplastics are very brittle compared to those made from fossil fuel.
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