New Nylon, New Possibilities

Zengyi Shao and Jean-Philippe Tessonnier
Zengyi Shao (left) and Jean-Philippe Tessonnier

Cyclone engineers Zengyi Shao and Jean-Philippe Tessonnier created a new type of biobased nylon that outperforms nylon created from petroleum chemicals. Shao and Tessonnier, both assistant professors of chemical and biological engineering, combined their expertise in biocatalysis and chemical catalysis to design a hybrid biomass-to-nylon process that integrates fermentation and downstream upgrading. This hybrid process offers many advantages: the entire conversion is performed under near-ambient conditions, the fermentation broth is converted directly without any purification and the fermentation broth provides the reagents for the second step of the process.

What’s more, the final product, bio- advantaged nylon-6,6, has an extra double chemical bond in its backbone, which can be used to tailor the material’s properties in all kinds of useful ways. The double bond is an anchoring point to add extra molecular chains that can make the biobased nylon hydrophobic, antistatic, antimicrobial, flame retardant and more.

“We’re making new molecules that will enable development of new products not possible before using traditional petroleum- based nylon,” says Tessonnier.