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New Barrier Polymer Offers Biodegradability

New Barrier Polymer Offers Biodegradability

A major Japanese materials producer is opening the development door for a novel new vinyl-alcohol resin that features high amorphous content with the capability to tailor crystallinity.

Nippon Gohsei has established a semi-commercial plant in Japan for annual production of 300 tons of Nichigo G-Polymer. Another 2,000 tons of commercial production capacity will also be available this year.

"It's not every day that a new polymer is invented," says Jim Swager, commercial development manager for Soarus LLC, the U.S. sales arm for the material. Key targets will be high-strength, flexible, antistatic and hydrophilic functional products.

One major opportunity area is packaging, including all extrusion processes. One of the more interesting possibilities is the potential to team Nichigo G-Polymer with polylactic acid. "It would be the first 100-percent biodegradable film," says Swager. Currently used barrier layers in PLA film are not biodegradable. The material has a higher barrier than EVOH and has FDA approval for indirect food contact.

There are several development programs in Asia for co-extrudable barrier and acrylic emulsion applications for the new polymer. All are confidential. The material absorbs water, even when chilled, very quickly and is targeted as an inner barrier layer for coextruded or co-injected products. "We did one test that showed the material absorbed water in just three seconds," says Swager.

Ballpark price for an extrusion grade would be about $7/lb, about two to three times higher than competitive materials.

In addition to having excellent gas barrier properties and good chemical resistance compared to PVOH (polyvinyl alcohol) and EVOH (ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer) resins, Nichigo G-Polymer is said to have superior extrusion properties, orientability, shrinkability and transparency.

Because it has oxygen and hydrogen barrier properties, its use as a composite with other materials such as metal and inorganic materials could take place for household power fuel cell systems, fuel-cell-powered cars and hydrogen gas stations.

It has exceptionally good dispersing and aqueous solution stabilizing properties, so its use as a sintered binder and coating agent for silica, aluminazol and other metals is anticipated in the manufacture of flat panel displays and their component parts.

Nichigo G-Polymer can also be used in combination with other resins in bicomponent fibers and nonwoven fabrics, filters and polymer alloys.

The U.S. patent for Nichigo G-Polymer has been applied but not yet published.

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