Biodegradable, water-soluble polymers for industrial and consumer applications

Edit Hook

NanoChem Solutions, Inc., formerly Donlar, develops, produces, and markets biodegradable water-soluble polymers for industrial and consumer applications.  Graft copolymers are a type of polymer in which backbone monomers are bound with structurally distinct side-chain groups. In this sense, natural proteins are a type of graft copolymer in which a peptide bond backbone contains units (amino acid residues) with specific side-chains. Like in proteins, the side-chains of synthetic graft copolymers confer unique properties upon the substance as a whole. Intellectual property now owned by NanoChem describes a type of synthetic graft copolymer called sodium poly(aspartate) and the method of its production. This material is a coplymer of aspartate which mimics aspartate-rich oyster shell protein (OSP). Like OSP, it is biodegradable and capable of a remarkable degree of hydration. Because of its ability to absorb so much water, it may be a viable replacement for other polymers like polyacrylate used in diapers and agriculture.

Key Differentiators

NanoChem's copolymers are biodegradable and are useful for oil and gas production, industrial water treatment, dispersants, anti-scalants, corrosion inhibitors, detergents, and superabsorbents for baby diapers and adult incontinence products. They replace chemicals that are non-biodegradable, toxic, hazardous, and accumulating.

Biomimicry Story

BioPolymers were inspired by oysters. In the mid-1980s, an organic chemist named Larry Koskan read a report by a marine biologist at Clemson University and the University of South Alabama describing how oyster shells grow. Scientists knew that the mollusks secrete calcium carbonate as the essential constituent of their hardened exteriors. But what was new was the discovery that oysters also produce special protein-based agents that mold the mineral into their shells' characteristic shape. Kostan realized that very low doses of the biopolymer they had found--polyaspartate--inhibit the formation of calcium carbonate, and immediately realized its potential for industrial applications.

Challenges Solved

There was a need to replace polyacrylate, used in diapers and agriculture, which is inexpensive but is not biodegradable, representing a significant waste product.

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