Earlier this month, Atlanta-based Lehigh Technologies, a specialty materials and additives company, was awarded the 2015 Bloomberg New Energy Pioneer award. The award is in recognition for the ten-year old company’s innovations in commercializing a range of micronized rubber powders (MRP) from end-of-life tires that are used as additives in plastics and as raw materials in a range of other markets such as new tires and asphalt. MRP reportedly can reduce feedstock costs by 30% or more, while delivering equivalent or improved performance and an improved sustainability profile.
This award recognizes the top 10 companies globally that are revolutionizing the field of clean energy technology and innovation. Nominees are judged based on the potential to scale the technology, the originality of the technology and business model, as well as momentum and ability to grow the company. Judges include industry pros from U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and BP Alternative Energy North America.
Last September, the company got an extra boost in its investor base with the closing of an $8-million strategic financing round to support the company’s geographic expansion and technology roadmap. JSR Corp., a $4-billion specialty chemicals company, participated in this latest round of financing, joining existing investors Leaf Clean Energy; Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers; Index Ventures; and Florida Gulfshore Capital. The company has already made significant inroads into markets outside the United States, but this latest round of financing gives it additional resources to drive growth in Europe and Asia, according to Dr. Alan Barton, CEO of Lehigh Technologies. “Commercial sales of MRP have been growing rapidly—over the past few years alone, we’ve demonstrated annual growth rates of 30 percent,” he notes.
Within the plastics arena, MRP has been getting broader play, starting with PP and PE in a variety of applications, from industrial piping to consumer storage solutions to automotive components. In its collaborative efforts with industry partners, the company has also shown its MRP products to be effective in nylon systems and other engineering resins. MRP can reportedly lower the part cost, increase throughput and reduce energy consumption in applications using either prime resins or blends with recycle content. The company also offers masterbatches for easy introduction in the process, eliminating the need to handle micron-scale powders in high-throughput molding operations.
Among processors who have been benefiting from Lehigh Technologies’ products is CTC Plastics, which offers a line of pallets and also supplies the resin compounds used to make them. Both pallets and pellets contain MRP blended with PP. In addition to making a significant impact on the company’s footprint, company officials cite unbeatable cost and performance. Yet another is septic tank maker Infiltrator Systems. For over four years, the company has been using MRP with industrial PP regrind to make their distribution chambers and has found it to be an excellent extender—effectively allowing them to reduce the amount of the higher-priced PP required for these injection molded parts. Other benefits cited include an improved balance of impact strength and flexural modulus, better surface finish and improved variability of the regrind used.