Process uses 1,4-butanediol from microbial digestion of sugar feedstocks to make component of polyester and polyurethane materials

Chemical giant BASF has begun commercial production of polytetrahydrofuran (polyTHF) derived entirely from biomass feedstocks. The process hinges on a microbial fermentation of sugars to produce 1,4-butanediol (BDO), which is then purified and polymerised.

BASF has licensed the BDO fermentation process from biotech specialist Genomatica, which genetically engineered the bacteria to produce and excrete BDO in sufficient quantity and purity.

PolyTHF is primarily used as a component in polyester and polyurethane materials. According to Andrej Brejc, BASF’s director of renewable diols, the company sees bio-based polyTHF as an opportunity to ‘further explore the long term market acceptance of this innovative technology’.