An Interwoven Partnership

Biobased nylon fiber may soon be found in clothes you’re wearing
By Bryan Sims | April 27, 2012

A new biobased version of nylon fiber may soon be hitting commercial clothing lines thanks to a joint research partnership forged between Toray Industries Inc. and Ajinomoto Inc., two of Japan’s leading plastics and specialty chemicals manufacturers. The two companies aim to jointly develop and produce the nylon raw material 1,5-pentanediamine (1,5-PD), also known as cadaverine, from the amino acid lysine produced from plant materials by Ajinomoto using fermentation technology, as well as commercialize a biobased nylon derived from this substance.

Specifically, the biobased nylon that Ajinomoto and Toray intend to research and develop will be produced from plant materials by decarbonating the amino acid lysine through an enzyme reaction to make 1,5-PD, which Toray will then polymerize with dicarboxylic acid. According to a joint statement by the two firms, lysine is a core product of the Ajinomoto Group produced using fermentation technology. The biobased nylon fiber made from 1,5-PD is not only sustainable because it will be plant-based, but it will also show promise for development into highly comfortable clothing.

“For example, nylon 5,6 fiber manufactured using 1,5-PD is pleasing to the touch, yet has the same strength and heat resistance as conventional nylon fiber made from the petrochemical derivative hexamethylenediamine,” the statement claims. “It also absorbs and desorbs moisture nearly as well as cotton.”

The two firms have already carried out successful test production runs of 1,5-PD using Ajinomoto’s feed-use lysine, as well as test production of biobased nylon made by polymerizing 1,5-PD. Additionally, the two companies intend to expand the scope of the collaboration into the development and production processes and evaluation for its use in textile and plastics applications, according to the joint statement.

This partnership between Ajinomoto, a leading manufacturer of amino acids, and Toray, a leading manufacturer of nylon, is expected to enable the creation of biobased nylon products that are competitive in terms of quality, environmental stewardship and cost. Finally, the companies intend to deepen the collaborative effort with the view of using a membrane-integrated bioprocess that’s being developed by Toray in the production technology for lysine.

—Bryan Sims