Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?
In 2011 we saw a need for an inexpensive process to manufacture furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA). The goal was to develop a process that would allow the polymer polyethylene furanoate (PEF) to be made from the monomer FDCA at a cost competitive with polyethylene terephthalate (PET). FDCA is a well-documented molecule with vast potential. Process development started as a collaboration between the Technical University of Vienna and Annikki GmbH. In 2014 Microinnova GmbH was brought on board because of their expertise in developing and scaling flow reactor technology. In 2018 the joint venture between Annikki and Microinnova moved from Austria to Germany and became Treemera GmbH.
Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?
Treemera will scale up and commercialize its FDCA process. It is engaging with value chain partners to work on polymerization of the monomer and finding other uses for the molecule.
Q: What stage of development are you? Choose one:
Proof of concept stage – in the lab or in the product/service formation process
Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?
PEF has superior properties to the petro-based equivalent PET. This includes better barrier properties like oxygen, CO2 and water. It also has mechanical property advantages like a higher tensile strength. Additionally, other applications like polyamides can be made from FDCA.
Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost
or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?
Treemera’s FDCA process is quite different from other processes. The first step is to make 99.9% pure fructose using cell-free redox biocatalysis in a single pot cascade reaction. Inexpensive pure fructose is needed to manufacture FDCA at a competitive price. If the fructose is not pure, unwanted byproducts will result. Sugar, starch, HFCS and cellulose are possible starting materials for this step.
The fructose is then converted in a quick reaction to HMF and without isolating the HMF it is oxidized to FDCA. Given the instability of HMF a quick reaction is needed to have high yields. This speed is enabled using a continuous reactor. It allows FDCA to be manufactured at a cost where it can be made into PEF at a cost cheaper than many grades of PET. With its superior properties and cheaper price, we expect this bio-based plastic to be a major replacement for petroleum-based products.
Q: What are some of the top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?
- The bench scale development was completed for both the FDCA and fructose processes. The fructose process will be ready for commercialization in 2020.
- The FDCA pilot plant site was selected and is nearly complete.
- The joint venture between Annikki and Microinnova evolved to Treemera GmbH.
Q: What are some of the top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?
- The fructose process will be commercialized.
- The FDCA piloting process will be completed.
- Construction on the FDCA demonstration plant will be underway.
Q. Where can I learn more about Treemera?