What Are Biosynthetics? A biosynthetic fiber consists of polymers made from renewable resources, either wholly or partly. Biosynthetics are emerging as a potential alternative to conventional synthetic products. The main difference between biosynthetic fibers and conventional synthetic fibers lies in the raw materials used. Conventional synthetics, such as polyester, nylon and acrylic, use raw materials derived from fossil fuels – petroleum, natural gas and coal. Biosynthetic fibers can be made from 100 percent biobased as well as partially biobased resources.
When oil prices are low, biobased polymers are typically more expensive than petroleum-based polymers. However, brands should consider looking at biobased polymers as new materials with new and different features (i.e. more sustainable, lower carbon) rather
than comparing them to petroleum based materials. Undertaking strategic development work now will also ensure economies of scale and a diversified commercial portfolio for a time when oil prices increase and petroleum-based polymers costs also increase.
Already, a diverse range of textile products is being made from biosynthetic fibers. Products range from home and fashion to outdoor and technical textiles. Biosynthetic fibers can be found in more and more products. For the textile industry, the shift from fossil based synthetic fibers to biobased is in its infancy, with biobased polyester being the best developed. Biobased alternatives for polyamides (nylons) are also being developed, along with entirely new synthetic materials such as artificial spider silk. Scaling production is currently underway. Biobased alternatives include:
PLA (Polylactic Acid)
After harvesting, the starch is separated from the other plant components and converted into dextrose (glucose). The dextrose is fermented into lactic acid, which is then dehydrated to produce lactide. The lactide is then polymerized using one of two methods, with the Ring Opening Process being the favored option today. The polymer is then extruded into polylactide chip. The chips are shipped to the manufacturer for fiber production or plastic molding
Biobased PTT (Poly Trimethylene Teraphthalate)
Utilizing two raw materials, a sugar produced through photosynthesis and a petroleum-based oil, makes partially biobased PTT. The end polymer is extruded via a melt spinning process. DuPont™ uses a proprietary polycondensation polymerization process in the production of Sorona
Biobased Polyamide 11 (PA11)
PA11 is produced from castor oil. It is produced by polymerization of 11-aminoundecanoic acid. From the castor oil, Amino 11 monomer is synthesized by the amination of undecenoic acid, this is dehydrated, then polymerized and extruded into polyamide 11 pellets. As with other nylon polymers these pellets can be turned into fibers or molded components through standard processes
Biobased Polyamide 10,10 (PA10,10)
PA10,10 is also a polyamide and bioplastic, and a member of the nylon family of biobased polymers. It is a long-chain AABB type polyamide, made from castor oil. It is produced by the polymerization of sebacic acid and decamethylene diamine.