Masavage says Biobent Polymers turned to its parent company, Univenture, because, “they’ve always been a very friendly, eco-conscious manufacturer.” Univenture asked Masavage to test some bio composite materials. “At the beginning there were some challenges, but we helped them to improve the intellectual property, and they filed patents for it,” he says. “It’s not just a simple filler. Most bioplastics are just taking wood or some biomass with some sort of agricultural product, and just mixing it in with plastic filler. That’s an acceptable way to do it, but the problem is, when you do that, it’s pretty poor performance and often the biofeedstock they use is not particu- larly cheap,” he says.
Battelle has developed a protein-unfolding mechanism, which is triggered in the presence of a particular chemical during the reaction-extrusion process. “When the soy comes in contact with this chemical, it makes the protein molecule unfold. Then we introduce the resin into the compounding machine, called the twin–screw extruder, and when all of parts come together the proteins actually bond themselves to the base resin (the petroleum-based portion of the product) at a chemical level,” Masavage says.
The resulting bioplastic performs as well as the base resin. “Because we’re replacing as much as 40 percent of the petroleum in the product with a very, very inexpen- sive soy-based feed stock, we can actually deliver prices at or below standard prices for petroleum-based plastics,” he says. “We can now deliver the first bioplastic with comparable price and performance that meets the USDA bio-preferred guidelines.”
Biobent Polymers signed a license with the Battelle for exclusive worldwide production, sales and sublicensing of the technology. Masavage says, “We’ve got an oppor- tunity to significantly reduce, by millions and millions of barrels, the amount of oil we have to import if we can switch to a bioplastic like this.”