News

Interfacial Solutions, the leading provider of idea-to-production contract R&D services to the plastics industry, is pleased to announce their awarding of a prestigious National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (NSF-SBIR) Phase II Grant. The NSF-SBIR Phase II grant for $750,000 over two years, was based upon the successful completion of a Phase I research grant, also from the National Science Foundation. The Phase I research successfully demonstrated the feasibility of an improved end-of-life scenario for PLA, an eco-friendly plastic made from sustainable resources such as corn. Using proprietary patent pending processing technology developed by Interfacial Solutions, it was successfully demonstrated that scrap polylactic acid (PLA) can be reprocessed into plastic resin having properties equivalent, and often times improved, in comparison to virgin PLA. Reclaiming and reprocessing scrap PLA, can help enable the full eco-friendly potential of PLA by creating significant commercial value for scrap PLA. Such an approach avoids the need to landfill or compost PLA scrap.

Key to the successful completion of the Phase I research was the use of Interfacial Solutions’ unique reactive extrusion chemistries that re-builds the polymer architecture after it is degraded during its original processing and subsequent reclaiming. Novel hyperbranching chemistries, initially invented to support the development of Interfacial Solutions’ deTerra® biobased polymers, were successfully leveraged. In this work, multiple post-industrial sources of scrap PLA, ranging dramatically in quality, were converted into hyperbranched PLA plastics with superior melt processing characteristics. To demonstrate the suitability of the process to post-consumer recycled PLA, Interfacial Solutions collaborated with Dr. Paul Fowler and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Together the research demonstrated that reclaimed biodegradable PLA used at the campus’ cafeterias could be reprocessed to PLA resin having properties similar to virgin PLA resin, despite the contamination inherent in the use of reclaimed post-consumer waste from cafeterias. Interfacial Solutions’ proposal also included letters of support from leaders in the biopolymer industry as many recognize the importance of developing an effective technology to support the recycling of PLA. Improved end-of-life recycling augments composting for sustainable bioplastics such as PLA. This work was also recognized earlier this year by the Society of Plastics Engineers with the 2013 Environmental Stewardship Award for Plastics from Renewables.

Gregg Bennett, Chief Executive Officer and Member of Interfacial Solutions, stated, “Being awarded a prestigious Phase II NSF-SBIR grant is a wonderful recognition and an important milestone for our company. The National Science Foundation is the premier science and technology governmental organization in the country. Being awarded a Phase II grant recognizes the excellent research, development and commercialization skills Interfacial Solutions offers and regularly delivers to our contract R&D customers. This grant is the third National Science Foundation grant Interfacial Solutions has been awarded in the past year and a half. We are extremely proud to be recognized in this way.”

Adam Pawloski, Technical Director and Principal Investigator for the grant adds, “We look forward to beginning our Phase II efforts that will focus on reliable manufacturing and the development of specific grades of reclaimed PLA that we plan to commercialize. We believe our reactive hyperbranching biopolymer technologies are going to truly impact how PLA is used and potentially allow for its nearly indefinite use through recycling. Our process uses cost-effective methods for converting low quality scrap into much higher quality plastic compounds. This leads to lower overall costs to our customers for high performance PLA compounds, and increases the overall use of PLA in the plastics market because less scrap material will end up in landfill. In our Phase II research we will continue our collaboration with Dr. Paul Fowler to develop a full lifecycle assessment for our new process. Additionally, we will be working with Dr. Chris Macosko and the University of Minnesota to measure important fundamental rheological properties of our hyperbranched polymers. We are excited about all of these important activities to improve the overall lifecycle and properties of these materials and postpone PLA’s end-of-life because it is in the best interest of the environment and society.”

NSF-SBIR focuses on driving innovation and commercialization of new technologies through a highly competitive award-based program. The goal is to stimulate high-tech innovations in the United States through qualified small businesses in the Research and Development sector. Typically, less than 5% of NSF-SBIR proposals reach Phase II.

About Interfacial Solutions LLC: Interfacial Solutions is a privately held contract research and development technology company with a proven track record of helping innovators innovate in the material science field. Located in a 42,000 square foot facility near River Falls, Wisconsin, Interfacial Solutions has a creative team of scientists possessing more than 50 issued patents and is equipped with state-of-the-art polymer testing equipment, compound and processing equipment, and production capabilities to meet a broad range of plastic
industry challenges. Additional information can be found at http://www.interfacialsolutions.com.