This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 15, 2002

Cargill Dow, Ashland to Produce Biobased Solvent

The biobased chemical industry took a large step forward in late April, when Cargill Dow LLC announced that it has signed a five-year agreement with Ashland Specialty Chemical Company to produce a biobased solvent. Biobased chemicals are produced from organic matter available on a renewable basis - in this case, the solvent will be produced from corn. Biobased chemical production can potentially consume far less fossil fuels than conventional chemical production processes.

Ashland will derive its ethyl lactate solvent from ethanol and a Cargill Dow polymer intermediate called lactide. Cargill Dow's lactide production, in turn, will draw on the company's new plant that produces lactic acid from corn. The electronics-grade solvent has many applications in the semiconductor industry.

Since launching its new plant in April, Cargill Dow has also moved ahead on its NatureWorks products, which are produced from lactic acid. The company has demonstrated the superior flame resistance of its NatureWorks fiber, while a leading Italian supermarket is preparing to use NatureWorks materials to produce containers and film wrapping for its food products. By mid-summer, the supermarket plans to distribute fresh food and pasta in the corn-based packaging.

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