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BASF, Cargill and Novozymes recently announced an important milestone in their joint development of technologies to produce acrylic acid from renewable raw materials by successfully demonstrating the production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP) in pilot scale. 3-HP is a renewable-based building block and one possible chemical precursor to acrylic acid.
The companies also have successfully established several technologies to dehydrate 3-HP to acrylic acid at lab scale. This step in the process is critical since it is the foundation for production of acrylic acid. In August 2012, BASF, Cargill and Novozymes announced their joint agreement to develop a process for the conversion of renewable raw materials into a 100% bio-based acrylic acid.
“3-HP is a potential key raw material for the production of bio-based acrylic acid, which is a precursor of superabsorbent polymers,” said Teressa Szelest, senior vice president, Global Hygiene business, BASF. “We still have a fair amount of work to do before the process is commercially ready, but this is a significant milestone and we are confident we can continue to the next level of scale-up for the entire process in 2014.”
Acrylic acid is a high-volume chemical that feeds into a range of products. BASF is the world’s largest producer of acrylic acid and has substantial capabilities in its production and downstream processing. BASF reportedly plans initially to use the bio-based acrylic acid to manufacture superabsorbent polymers that can soak up large amounts of liquid and are used mainly in baby diapers and other hygiene products.
Superabsorbent polymers derived from bio-based acrylic acid are expected to be a groundbreaking new offer to the market. Diapers made of such superabsorbent polymers could meet the demand of a significant and growing group of consumers in mature markets in particular. They also may allow diaper producers to meet consumer demands, differentiate their products and contribute to their sustainability goals.