Italian Partnership to Pursue Technology for Production of Biopolymers from CO2

Multi-utility provider Hera teams up with biopolymer producer Bio-on to support new company’s challenge to revolutionize the production of PHAs.

Two leading Italian entities have teamed up with the aim of revolutionizing  production of PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) biopolymers. Bio-on, a fast-growing producer of high-quality PHA bioplastics, and Gruppo Hera, one of Italy's largest multi-utility providers, have reached an agreement to take 90% and 10% shares respectively (with the possibility of Hera increasing its share to 49.9%) in new company Lux-on.

Founded by Bio-on, Lux-on’s mission is to develop technology that allows for the production of PHAs using CO2 captured from the atmosphere and producing energy without using fossil fuels.

The new technology, developed by Bio-on, envisages using CO2 as a zero cost “raw material”. The company already produces Bio-on bioplastic from sugar beet and sugar cane molasses, fruit and potato waste, carbohydrates, glycerol and waste frying oil. Using CO2 will also help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The laboratories and first plant of the new Lux-on project will be built by the end of 2019, close to Bio-on’s industrial facility at Castel San Pietro Terme (Bologna). It will be designed entirely by Bio-on technicians in collaboration with Hera, with carbon capture plants and a production facility using renewable solar energy. The development of the technology will be aided by the fact that many of the principles and equipment used in the standard technology can also be used in Lux-on’s new production systems.

This is why, according to Bio-On, the development and pre-industrial phase will be much faster than is typical. The plant will occupy an area of 16,145 ft2—6458 ftof which is covered, and it will have a flexible production capacity that is rapidly expandable.

The electric energy used in Lux-on's innovative production process will be produced by photovoltaic systems which, aside from directly powering production, will also provide storable energy for nocturnal power (24/7 production). For energy storage, partnerships will be entered into with international experts in hydrogen technology. A non-polluting gas, hydrogen will be produced from solar energy, stored and then converted to electric energy to power the plant when the solar panels are not running, i.e. at night or when light levels are poor.

All the PHAs developed by Bio-on are made from renewable plant sources with no competition with food supply chains, and from CO2 in the coming years. They can replace a number of conventional polymers currently made with petrochemical processes using hydrocarbons; they guarantee the same thermo-mechanical properties as conventional plastics with the advantage of being completely eco-sustainable and 100% naturally biodegradable.

The agreement between the two companies has come out of a highly dynamic territory that represents the technological cutting edge in Italy to be exported around the world.

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