[PHNUTR-L] Of possible interest to those working in food allergies:
WILL CORN REVOLUTIONIZE THE FIBER INDUSTRY?
fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com
Wed Feb 20 15:18:45 PST 2008
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WILL CORN REVOLUTIONIZE THE FIBER INDUSTRY?
By: Nancy Kelley, President
Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc.
Imagine instead of eating corn, you are now wearing corn…and not as
a Halloween costume, but as your favorite career dresswear. This is not
a corny joke, but NatureWorks PLA, a fiber entirely derived from corn,
with the final product a "natural plastic". Nature Works PLA is made
from the dextrose extracted from corn. The dextrose is then fermented to
produce lactic acid. The water is then removed and converted to fiber
form. Corn is being used as the dextrose source because of its abundance
and low cost.
The fiber is being produced as a joint venture (Cargill Dow
Polymers LLC) between Cargill, Inc. and The Dow Chemical Company, two of
the biggest names in agriculture and chemicals. Cargill markets,
processes and distributes agricultural products on an international
scale. Dow is a global manufacturer of chemicals, plastics and
agricultural products. Cargill supplies the lactic acid and Dow brings
the large-scale polymer manufacturing economics to the joint venture. An
application for generic fiber classification has been submitted to the
Federal Trade Commission.
Fabrics made with NatureWorks PLA offer consumers a unique
combination of options. These properties have attracted considerable
attention. The fabrics exhibit the comfort and hand of natural fibers
such as cotton, silk and wool while having the performance, cost, and
easy care characteristics of synthetics. PLA fibers demonstrate
excellent resiliency, outstanding crimp retention and improved wicking
compared with natural fibers. Fabrics produced from PLA are being
utilized for their silky feel, drape, durability and moisture properties.
PLA is not a new polymer. But the recent advances in the
fermentation of glucose (which is obtained from the corn) had led to a
dramatic reduction in the manufacturing cost of the lactic acid used to
make the polymers. For the first time these fibers can be made entirely
from a renewable resource (corn) while at the same time compete in the
marketplace in relation to cost and performance.
"People have know for years that plants hold the potential to meet
a number of our society needs," says Pat Gruber, Vice President of
Technology. What we have done is take a basic plant function that has
been going on for eons and learned how to tap into it to make two of the
world’s most used items, plastics and fibers. And, we are doing so in an
environmentally and socially responsible manner."
Fiber producers, yarn spinners, manufacturers have already been
working with this fiber. NatureWorks PLA can be used in a wide range of
woven and non-woven applications, including: clothing, carpets, diapers,
mattresses, upholstery, interior and outdoor furnishings, filtration and
geotextile applications. Industrial applications are attributed to its
UV resistance, reduced flammability, low smoke generation, toxicity and
soil resistance and stain removal. Several U.S. mills are spinning yarn
made from NatureWorks PLA including Unifi, Fiber Innovations Technology
and Parkdale Mills. At the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Japan, Cargill
sponsored a fashion show of "clothes from the earth" which included
fabrics made with NatureWorks PLA.
Most important among its many advantages is that NatureWorks PLA is
a renewable resource. Nature Works PLA is being touted as an
eco-efficient and environmentally friendly product. The NatureWorks PLA
process uses 30-50% less fossil fuel than usually required to produce
conventional fiber. PLA products can be disposed of by composting.
According to William Stavropoulos, president and CEO of Dow Chemical
Company, "What’s exciting about this technology is its breadth of
applications and the fact that it comes from annually renewable
resources. NatureWorks offers the opportunity to truly develop
sustainable products because we are using raw materials that can be
regenerated year after year and it is cost competitive and
Cargill Dow Polymers currently operates a plant near Minneapolis,
Minnesota. The company is investing $8 million to double capacity this
year to meet immediate market development needs. Cargill and Dow have
invested more than $300 million in a new manufacturing facility in
Blair, Nebraska, which is scheduled to come on stream at the end of
2001. This new plant will serve global demand until capacity is added in
Europe and Asia.
Future plans call for extracting dextrose from other plant sources
such as sugar beets, wheat, rice and other products containing
cellulose. Worldwide production is an implication of this renewable
resource…a boon for farmers here and around the globe. A major new
market for producers of agriculture crops is created, securing an
employment base for rural workers.
"To think that what is grown in a field can now be converted into
plastic is really quite amazing," says Jim Stoppert, President and CEO
of Cargill Dow Polymers. "The Nature Works process allows us to tap into
the natural raw materials contained within plants and creates plastics
with performance that is equal to or better than those made from
Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc. manufactures fabric swatch kits for
students who study textiles in colleges and universities. These kits
are also sold to professionals in the industry. We also sell to high
schools, department stores, interior designers and costume designers.
The kits are designed to help educate people about a variety of fabrics
and to be a permanent hands on reference for the user.
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD
"Ask the Parkinson Dietitian" http://www.parkinson.org/
"Eat well, stay well with Parkinson's disease"
"Parkinson's disease: Guidelines for Medical Nutrition Therapy"
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