Köln, Germany - German biotech company BluCon Biotech and chemical giant LG Chem, have entered into a new investment agreement. Under the agreement, the two will collaborate on scaling up and commercialising BluCon’s proprietary technology for the production of high purity L-lactic acid. Lactic acid is a precursor for, among others, bio-based, biodegradable PLA. For LG Chem, the investment will support and supplement its bio-economy portfolio - a portfolio featuring, amon others, such next-generation materials as PLAs and polybutylene adipate-co-terephthalates (PBATs).
The two companies have agreed to work together on BluCon’s novel process for converting non-food lignocellulosic feedstocks into lactic acid. to supplement LG Chem´s The technology route developed by BluCon involves the direct fermentation of lignocellulosic feedstock to lactic acid, thus lowering the costs of production and making it possible to produce PLA that is price-competitive with fossil-based plastics.
BluCon Biotech, founded in 2017, uses proprietary bacteria to digest lignocellulosic biomass and produce lactic acid in one bioreactor- a highly efficient and cost-effective technology and a world first, explained co-founder and co-CEO Dr. Albrecht Läufer.
“This will lead to a commercially viable process that can produce lactic acid at a lower cost than traditional methods, making bio-based plastics competitive with fossil-based plastics,” he said. The company is currently conducting pilot runs.
The flexibility of the technology platform means it can also be used to produce other bio-based products as well, such as ethanol or succinic acid.
Using non-food feedstocks derived from agricultural residues and waste streams from the pulp and paper industry eliminates any potential competition with the food chain, plus it helps to protect the environment by reducing pollution generated by the incineration of straw or bagasse.
BluCon had previously also received funding from the German Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection to scale up its proprietary fermentation technology.
“We are proud to have won the investment and support of LG Chem, one of the major chemical companies in the world, that clearly commits to reaching carbon-neutral growth by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050,” said co-founder and co-CEO Markus Fehr.
BluCon plans to adapt its process for the conversion of other feedstocks, such as wheat straw, into bioplastics, as well. Other alternatives include corn stover, bagasse, cotton stalks, starch and algae. The company plans to license its technologies to investors, the chemical and biotech industry and to large feedstock and bioplastic producers, in this way generating revenue through milestone, royalty and service fees. The factories will likely be located in areas with ample feedstock supplies, potentially bringing development to remote rural areas worldwide.