DuPont Patents: From Plastics to Ethanol Production Using Bacterial Processes

By Steve Brachmann
November 5, 2014

DuPont Experimental Station in Wilmington, Del., the company’s global R&D headquarters.

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (NYSE: DD), known as DuPont and headquartered in Wilmington, DE, is an American chemical company responsible for the creation of many commercially successful polymers, refrigerants and other chemical products. The latest quarterly earnings report released by this company shows that DuPont increased corporate profits by 20 percent over the past year’s third quarter results. However, some industry commentators look to uncertainty in DuPont’s agricultural business as a sign of possible instability in this company. As we’ll see more below, DuPont is very focused on food science innovations, such as the development of packaging resins to increase the shelf life of packaged meats.

DuPont is a company responsible for many impressive industrial and commercial innovations, and our latest survey of patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office bears this fact out. We explored a couple of patent applications that discuss novel methods of creating fuel from biomass materials, especially those materials that don’t draw from the food supply. Transparent conductive materials, ink-jet inks with better pigment stability and a whipping agent for frozen sorbet are other technological advances which are discussed below.

This corporation benefits from a strong patent portfolio and we’ve chronicled the addition of several important patents to DuPont’s intellectual property portfolio today. More food production innovations are reflected here, including a patent protect a better method for obtaining betaine from sugar beets for the production of molasses. Plastics production, including dielectric films for capacitors, are explored in more detail below. We also profile inventions involving relief printing methods for corrugated cardboard as well as another innovation for producing ethanol from biomass.

 

DuPont’s Patent Applications: From Ethanol Production to Sorbet Whipping Agents

From its beginnings as a gunpowder mill company in the early 1800s, DuPont has successfully pursued innovation in chemical engineering for more than 200 years. In recent years, DuPont’s research and development activities have focused a great deal of attention on sustainability in technologies, from product packaging to cold-water cleaning to finding practical uses for surplus heat. An activist investor has recently been pressing DuPont to split the company in two, but executives are wary of separating the company’s R&D activities in biological engineering from its chemical engineering activities. At the end of October, DuPont celebrated the 50th anniversary of research and development operations at its largest food science R&D facility, located in Braband, Denmark.

DuPont has been creating products in recent days to open up new markets for biomass materials, and the production of biomass was at the center of a couple of patent applications which caught our eyes today. Improvements to the processing of biomass from agricultural residues and forestry wastes are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140273105, filed under the title Gradient Pretreatment of Lignocellulosic Biomass. This patent application would protect a process for producing fermentable sugars from cellulosic biomass by reacting the biomass with ammonia in a specific percentage over time and then applying a saccharification enzyme. This pretreatment process can support the enhanced production of fermentable sugars generated during the biomass fermentation process.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140273105, titled “Gradient Pretreatment of Lignocellulosic Biomass.”

 

Technologies for the genetic engineering of yeast have been invented by DuPont and are disclosed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140256048, which is titled Bacterial Xylose Isomerases Active in Yeast Cells. The recombinant yeast cell that would be protected by this patent application contains a heterologous nucleic acid encoding a polypeptide that has xylose isomerase activity, giving the yeast cell the ability to grow using xylose as a sole source of carbon. Xylose is the second-most abundant sugar in cellulosic biomass after glucose. The yeast cell can be used in fermentation processes to produce ethanol from renewable biomass resources which don’t compete with the food supply.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140261656, entitled “Thin-Film Transparent Conductive Structure and Devices Made Therewith.”

A few patent applications filed in recent months by DuPont relate to novel conductive materials and structures for use in the manufacturing of various electronic devices. Low heat manufacturing processes that involve the curing of conductive pastes to form an electrode are the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140306165, which is titled Method of Manufacturing Non-Firing Type Electrode. Electrodes which are non-fired, or created with heat treatment processes which are below 350° Celsius, are required for use in electrical device and substrate manufacturing operations to reduce the risk of heat damage. The patent application would protect a manufacturing process for a non-fired type electrode involving a conductive paste comprised of a conductive powder, an organic boron compound and an organic vehicle which is applied using a heat treatment process which ranges from 100°C and 300°C. Transparent conductors for use in optoelectronic devices for making electrical connections without blocking light transmissions are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140261656, entitled Thin-Film Transparent Conductive Structure and Devices Made Therewith. The patent application would protect a thin-film transparent conductive structure comprised of a substrate with a silver and aluminum metallic layer having a plurality of apertures ranging in average size from 250 nanometers to 425 nanometers.

DuPont’s chemical engineering innovations also extend into the production of liquids for industrial and consumer applications. There have been a series of patent applications filed by the company which are directed at the production of fluids for industrial use, one of which is U.S. Patent Application No. 20140264199, filed under the title Stabilized Fluids for Industrial Applications. The patent application would protect a stabilized dielectric fluid composition including ester-based fluids that is characterized by an oxidative stability index of greater than 20 hours at 130°C. The high-performance industrial fluid can be used as a dielectric, lubricant or biodiesel fluid composition in place of non-ester-based fluids, like mineral oil and synthetic hydrocarbon oils, which are less environmentally friendly. DuPont is also involved in the development of ink-jet inks, as is evidenced by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140288237, entitled Aqueous Pigment Dispersions Based on Branched Polyurethane Dispersants. The invention is designed to improve the stability of pigment dispersions in ink-jet printing applications over conventional polymeric dispersants. The patent application would protect an aqueous pigment dispersion comprised of an aqueous vehicle, a pigment and a polyurethane dispersant, achieving a suitable durability and optical density for ink-jet printing.

DuPont’s history of researching food science in Denmark, noted above, is still resulting in innovations in this field, as we saw in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140314934, which is titled Whipping Agent for Food Products and Use Thereof. Assigned to DuPont Nutrition BioSciencies ApS of Copenhagen, the patent application would protect a frozen whipped food product that includes a whipping agent comprised of an emulsifier and a potato protein. This whipping agent achieves a greater foam stability and aeration when used in sorbets and sherbets.

 

Issued Patents of Note: Plastics, Sugar Beet Processing and Ethanol Production Using Bacterial Processes

A member of the Dow Jones index, DuPont is also an active player in applying for patent rights for many of the company’s innovations. The company was 32nd in the world during 2013 in obtaining U.S. patent grants, having successfully applied for 1,045 patents that year. DuPont has been busy protecting its intellectual property holdings in the clean energy sector, and in August of this year the company filed a patent infringement suit against solar and semiconductor wafer manufacturer SunEdison for the latter’s use of a photovoltaic paste used in solar modules.

More biological engineering innovations for food science are featured in a couple of patents which we felt would pique the interests of our readers today. A novel technique for preserving microorganisms used in food products are disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8834853, which is titled Coated Dehydrated Microorganisms With Enhanced Stability and Viability. The patent protects a dehydrated microorganism, specifically a bacteria, with a coating comprised of at least 25 percent hygroscopic salts by dry weight which has a pH ranging from 5.5 to 7.9. Methods for the processing of sugar beets to produce food products such as molasses or vinasse are discussed within U.S. Patent No. 8864995, issued under the title Method for Separating Betaine. The patent protects a novel technique for the chromatographic separation of betaine to collect a fraction of a sugar beet-based solution which is enriched in betaine. This chromatographic separation process, which involves the use of a weakly acid cation exchange resin is preferable for the fractioning of betaine from solutions which contain multiple carboxylic compounds.

The production of various kinds of plastics is another area of research and development which has been in recent focus for DuPont and some of its subsidiaries. A thermoplastic developed by Denmark-based Dupont Nutrition Biosciences has been protected through the issue of U.S. Patent No. 8846793, simply titled Process. The patent protects a process of preparing a compound so that both a hydroxy long acyl group and a branched long acyl group are provided. The plasticiser compound produced by this process can be utilized in thermoplastic applications without the safety concerns of dioctyl adipate or phthalate plasticisers. Plastic films with dielectric properties for storing energy are central to the technology protected by U.S. Patent No. 8804308, which is titled Plastic Film Having a High Voltage Breakdown. This patent was issued to DuPont Teijin Films U.S. Limited Partnership, a corporate partnership between DuPont and Teijin which is headquartered in Chester, VA. The object of this invention is to create a thin plastic film for capacitor application in a process which doesn’t result in defects that deteriorate the mechanical properties of the film. The patent protects a biaxially stretched capacitor dielectric film having a thickness ranging from 0.3 micrometers to 25 micrometers which is composed of a dispersion of polycarbonate within a polyethylene naphthalate matrix.

From U.S. Patent No. 8846357, entitled “Stabilized Chlorine Dioxide for Contamination Control in Zymomonas Fermentation.”

DuPont has recently secured a patent to protect an innovation in the field of corrugated cardboard printing. U.S. Patent No. 8822135, which is titled Method for Preparing a Composite Printing Form, protects a printing method that involves the laser engraving of a reinforced elastomeric layer to form a relief structure on a carrier. The method of this invention is intended to improve the ease and accuracy of registering relief image printing plates onto the composite printing form involving corrugated cardboard. Finally, we were intrigued by another DuPont innovation in the field of producing ethanol from biomass, protected by U.S. Patent No. 8846357, entitled Stabilized Chlorine Dioxide for Contamination Control in Zymomonas Fermentation. The patent protects a fermentation method meant to control bacterial contamination within a fermentation process that produces ethanol. This technology is designed to improve the use of Zymomonas bacteria as a biocatalyst in ethanol fermentation process while controlling contamination of the process.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a writer located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He has become a regular contributor to IPWatchdog.com, writing about technology, innovation and is the primary author of the Companies We Follow series. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients.

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