Tomorrow arriving today: 5 technology platforms to watch for the 2020s that are materially advancing now, despite COVID-19

August 10, 2020 |

I know, we all wish that 2020 could be a do-over, and that come January 1st the clocks would just re-set to 1/1/2020 and we could do 2020 all over again. It’s been that messy and miserable the world over. Nevertheless, progress in the advanced bioeconomy was strong as was evident at ABLC 2020. And, there’s evidence that several new applications and markets of interest have made real progress worth noting as trends and product lines that will help define the 2020s.

Survey says: Sustainability more important now than ever

New research shows sustainability has moved from a fringe preference into a core imperative across American life. According to a new survey from clean manufacturing leader Genomatica, 56% of Americans want brands and government to prioritize sustainability even amid health and economic turmoil, and 85%of Americans reporting they’ve been thinking about sustainability the same amount or more during the COVID-19 pandemic, with those thinking about it more noticing less traffic (45%), cleaner air (42%) and more plastic waste (40%). Nearly half (48%) of those who’ve been more sustainable say they’re inspired to find ways to keep being sustainable and 42% realize being sustainable is easier than they thought. Six in 10 (59%) of those who admit being less sustainable during COVID-19 say they don’t like it, with 43% calling it a “necessary evil” and 36% saying they feel guilty about it.

1. Bio-based Ingredients-as-a-Service

First of all, the idea that there are so many needed biobased ingredients that a service provider is needed — that’s a robust signal to markets, right there. The fact that such a provider is well on its way is even more welcome. So, it’s news for 2020 but also news for the 2020s that Geltor closed a $91.3M Series B financing that will fuel the global expansion of its Ingredients-as-a-Service platform. Case in point, Over the past year, global demand for collagen grew by 25% and Geltor saw sales surge for its first products, animal-free collagens like HumaColl21 and Collume. Even in there disrupted days, Geltor was able to scale its fermentation-based technology platform up 100X. The round was led by future protein pioneer CPT Capital with significant commitment from WTT Investment Ltd. Returning investors in this financing include Cultivian Sandbox, SOSV, and iSelect Fund, along with the investment arms of global ingredient technology companies GELITA and Archer Daniels Midland. New investors include Blue Horizon Ventures, RIT Capital Partners, Humboldt Fund, and Pegasus Tech Ventures. Geltor is q biodesign company that has created the world’s largest selection of designer proteins.

2. The rise of Ultra Clean Fuels as a consumer preference

Blended fuels, in the renewable discussion, feel like compromised fuels because the typical blend is petroleum with renewable fuel. But there’s an emerging trend, blending biodiesel with renewable diesel. REG Ultra Clean blends biodiesel and renewable diesel to create one of the lowest carbon intensity liquid fuels available. Drivers get higher Cetane for better performance, added lubricity for reduced engine wear, lower aromatics for improved public health and excellent cloud point for good cold-weather usage. The best of both fuels’ emission profiles combine to significantly reduce total hydrocarbons (more than 20 percent), particulate matter (more than 40 percent), carbon monoxide (more than 25%) and NOx (by 10%) compared to petroleum diesel.

This week, Renewable Energy Group entered into an agreement with Hunt & Sons, Inc. to supply REG Ultra Clean at 12 locations in Northern California. This renewable diesel is one of the lowest carbon intensity liquid transportation fuels on the market today which enables businesses to achieve sustainability targets with the performance they expect. Hunt & Sons is a leading California-based petroleum products distributor and operates from its headquarters in Sacramento, California. This relationship will be the first-of-its kind for the business.

3. Topsoe and partners issue a report “Ammonfuel – An industrial view of ammonia as marine fuel”

Recently, the Wolfpack have been discussing ammonia fuels. Raso enterprises writes: “Hydrogen’s physical properties make it very difficult to handle. Because it is such a low density gas, very high pressures must be used to transport compressed hydrogen gas and this results in very low energy densities. The low energy density of compressed hydrogen gas makes storage and transport very expensive. Transporting compressed hydrogen gas any significant distance by truck can consume more energy in diesel fuel than what is contained in hydrogen. Liquefied hydrogen is obviously more energy dense than compressed hydrogen gas but a significant amount of energy must be expended to liquefy hydrogen and keep it refrigerated because its boiling point is –423 ºF (–253 ºC). Liquefaction requires about 30% of the energy content of liquid hydrogen while compression to 800 bar requires about 10-15% of energy carried by the hydrogen.”

This week, Alfa Laval, Hafnia, Haldor Topsoe, Vestas, and Siemens Gamesa issued a report “Ammonfuel – an industrial view of ammonia as a marine fuel” providing a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the applicability, scalability, cost, and sustainability of ammonia as a marine fuel. The report describes ammonia as an attractive and low risk choice of marine fuel both in the transition phase towards a more sustainable shipping industry and as a long-term solution. The report is based on partners’ industrial expertise and input from a list of competent industrial players. The Ammonfuel report covers all aspects of the process of turning ammonia into marine fuel, including conventional and future green ammonia production, experience regarding safety with ammonia from other areas, the logistics of providing ammonia where it is needed, and the application on board the ship.

Based on industrial expertise, the report concludes that ammonia is an attractive and low risk marine fuel, applicable both in the transition phase towards a more sustainable shipping and as a long-term solution.

4. The materials revolution continues

Worth noting the AVRIO FOOTWEAR launch. ALGIX, uses algae to clean the environment and create sustainable BLOOM FOAM to displace plastics in consumer products. Meanwhile, AVRIO FOOTWEAR, is a start-up brand focused on creating cutting-edge products with sustainability and technology at its’ core. They just debuted their first revolutionary product combining BLOOM Algae Foam, Oceanworks recycled ocean-bound plastics, Oxi-Tex H2O2 antimicrobial coating, and Blumaka circular manufacturing technologies to create a super comfy sneaker that achieves industry leading sustainability while naturally protecting the shoe against microbes such as bacteria, fungus, mold, mildew and viruses.

5. Lithium polymer batteries

You’ve read of LI or lithium-ion batteries. Keep an eye on LIP, or lithium-ion polymer batteries. These switch from a liquid to gels or polymers inside the battery to provide the electrolyte. That’s the thing which makes a battery a battery, by catalyzing the movement of ions that leads to the generation of a current. Typically, LI batteries uses liquid lithium salt electrolytes, now we are seeing a switch to the use of polyethylene glycol (PEG), polyacrylonitrile (PAN), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or polyvinylidene fluoride (PVdF). Now, MEG (monoethylene glycol) is the monomer, and that’s a common biobased target. By the way, if you’re doing surgical prep and have to take a laxative, that’s PEG in the mix there.

Why LI-poly? They’re safer, they self-discharge very slowly when not used, they have a higher energy density, meaning lighter batteries, and they can be thinner. The bad news, they cost more and store less power — for applications that need to seriously get the weight down and want to make it thin, keep an eye out. And those manufacturers tend toward the high end where biobased materials tend to be more highly prized.

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