Sumitomo and Newlight Technologies start joint development project with biomaterial produced by microorganisms

Tokyo, Japan – Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. and U.S.-based Newlight Technologies, Inc. have started the joint development of polypropylene (PP) compounds for use in automobiles and textile applications using a carbon-negative biomaterial produced by microorganisms from methane called AirCarbonTM.

Methane is said to have a greenhouse effect approximately 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, and its reduction is crucial to effectively curb global warming. The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021 launched an international framework aimed at reducing methane emissions.

The Sumitomo Chemical Group, as a globally-operating chemical manufacturer, is advancing initiatives to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 on the two fronts of its self-imposed obligation to bring the Group’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions close to zero and its contributions to global GHG emissions reduction through the Group’s products and technologies. In particular, in the area of automotive materials, where high quality and lower environmental impact are required, Sumitomo Chemical manufactures and supplies high-performance PP compounds and products made from recycled materials for the world’s leading car manufacturers.

Newlight Technologies is a company headquartered in California, the U.S., that has successfully developed the world’s first commercialized biomaterial made from methane as a carbon source (product name: AirCarbonTM) through its proprietary research utilizing methanotrophs3, microorganisms that exist in nature that metabolize methane. Third-party organizations4 have certified that the carbon footprint of AirCarbonTM is significantly negative when produced using renewable sources of energy for electric power. Newlight Technologies started the operation of the world’s first commercial-scale manufacturing plant for AirCarbonTM in 2020, and has been supplying the biomaterial to a wide variety of customers.

In this joint development project, Newlight Technologies will develop new grades of AirCarbonTM suitable for use in automotive and in textile applications, sourcing methane emissions captured and recovered from coal mining, agricultural, and industrial operations as the starting point for its production process. Sumitomo Chemical, leveraging its resin design and processing technologies cultivated over many years, will develop new compounds made from resins developed by Newlight Technologies and PP, with the aim of creating materials for automotive bumpers and interiors with equivalent quality and lower environmental impact as compared with conventional PP compounds, as well as materials for textiles that can be dyed, which has been difficult with conventional PP compounds but which can be improved through the use of AirCarbonTM. Sumitomo Chemical and Newlight Technologies will work together to contribute to creating a carbon-neutral society by providing various industries with products created through the combination of each other’s technologies.

Sumitomo Chemical will continue to actively promote open innovation with a range of stakeholders and accelerate the development of new products and technologies that help resolve societal problems.

Noriaki Takeshita, Representative Director and Senior Managing Executive Officer, Sumitomo Chemical:
“Our PP compounding business is actively promoting the use of recycled PP to contribute to building a circular economy. By leveraging AirCarbonTM from Newlight Technologies, we will provide carbon-negative PP compounds to our customers.”

Mark Herrema, Chief Executive Officer, Newlight Technologies:
“The mission of AirCarbonTM is using nature-based solutions to create decarbonization at scale, and our work with Sumitomo helps us move closer to that goal. We are excited to team up with Sumitomo and look forward to seeing applications on the market that help automotive partners meet their carbon reduction goals.”

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