COLLABORATION

Lygos, Massachusetts University team up in clean tech endeavor

SOURCE: UMassAmherst
The collaboration will see researchers apply artificial intelligence and machine learning-based approaches to better understand polymer microstructures.

Lygos, Inc. will be tapping the expertise of researchers from the Center for University of Massachusetts-Industry Research on Polymers (CUMIRP) to develop more applications for its proprietary malonic acid technology.

The partnership, led by Professors Harry Bermudez and Shaw Ling Hsu of the Umass-Amherst Department of Polymer Science and Engineering, will look into creating high-value, stable and sustainable materials, such as impact-absorbing foams, composites and durable coatings with Lygos’ Bio-Malonic™ Acid product family.

These high-performance polymers are used to make consumer products like sports gear and other lightweight materials from coatings to sealants, adhesives, flavors, as well as in pharmaceuticals and electronics manufacturing, among other things. Its multifunctional nature means it can be used as a precursor, an additive, a cross-linker, an intermediate compound or as an active pharmaceutical ingredient.

Malonic acids are currently produced via petrochemical-based processes, which are not only costly but also involve hazardous materials that are toxic to the environment and pose health risks to workers and end-users.

Lygos, a leading innovator in the development of bio-based specialty chemicals, has a greener, more sustainable option. And its partnership with the university aims to take its discoveries even further.

“Together with Professors Bermudez and Hsu and their team at the University of Massachusetts, we aim to produce various high-value, thermally stable polymer systems that can eventually replace harmful petro-based processes, reclaim local manufacturing, revive industrial innovation, and revitalize the circular economy,” said Lygos Chief Operations Officer Johan van Walsem.

The California-based Lygos earned its reputation in 2015 when it became the first in the market to achieve pilot scale production of malonic acid from biomass-derived sugar, yeast and water, an environmentally-friendly alternative to the traditional petroleum routes.

On top of a smaller carbon footprint, the technology is cost-competitive with current processes and can be scaled for commercial output. The firm has reportedly identified over US$1 billion in derivative specialty and commodity chemicals that can be accessed from malonic acid.

Lygos’ partnership with CUMIRP, the US’s oldest National Science Foundation Industry / University Cooperative Research Center dedicated to polymer research, therefore, is crucial to enabling these applications.

The collaboration will see researchers apply artificial intelligence and machine learning-based approaches to better understand polymer microstructures. Despite an abundance of available data on crosslinked polymer systems, researchers have yet to discover how to achieve the ideal balance of chain extension and crosslinking to optimize performance in specific applications.

This collaboration will explore the application of malonates with multiple reactivities and variable hydrophilicity in crosslinked systems including foams, coatings, adhesives, and films that are critical to many industries including healthcare and consumer goods.

“Most crosslinked materials are developed and used because of their attractive properties and thermal stability. It is also precisely these special attributes that make them particularly challenging to characterize.

“The innovative approaches powering this collaboration promise to substantially expand our understanding and control of these systems,” said CUMIRP PhD Director David Waldman.