NEW YORK — After more than half a century of development, DuPont has come up with a brand name for its corn-based polyester variant and expects to be commercially producing it by the end of the year.
The Wilmington, Del., firm said it would market its 3GT polyester variant under the name Sorona. It plans to begin production at its Kinston, N.C., site by October.
Initial capacity will be 12,000 tons per year, and the company said it could expand that to 50,000 tons. DuPont declined to provide its total polyester capacity, but said it estimated the total world textile-polyester market produces 45 billion tons of fiber per year.
DuPont’s polyester enterprise, which also includes resins and films, recorded sales of $1.94 billion last year.
In this variety of polyester, the petroleum-based raw material ethylene glycol is replaced by the 3GT polymer. That polymer can be produced by fermenting corn, which is a renewable resource.
However, the company is currently producing petrochemical-based 3GT. Later this year it expects to open a pilot plant using the fermentation method. DuPont said that by 2003 it should be producing commercial quantities of the polymer using the fermentation method.
Joe Carroll, business manager of 3GT, said DuPont had entered into confidentiality agreements with many mills in the U.S. and Europe to develop prototype fabrics of 3GT.
The company said the 3GT variety of fiber was easier to dye and had more stretch than typical polyester. The fiber will be produced by DuPont’s Dacron business unit. The company also has agreements with Korean joint-venture partners Saehan Industries and Teijin, and with Japan’s Toray Industries, to produce Sorona brand polyester.
“I’d like to think we’d be seeing commercial fabric, at least by the end of the year,” said Carroll.
DuPont started working with 3GT in the early 1940s, but was not able to develop an affordable way of producing the polymer until the mid-1990s, when it acquired technology from Degussa-Huels of Germany.