Technology to Increase the Length of Microcrystalline Cellulose (MCC) Linear Polymers

43 Submissions
129 Views
$15,000 USD
Challenge under evaluation

Challenge overview

OVERVIEW

ICL, the Seeker for this Challenge, invites solutions that can be developed to chain extend Microcrystalline Cellulose (MCC) linearly. In recent years, MCC has become a major product of recycling polyester/cotton blends of post-consumer textiles. Attempts are underway to reuse it in textile manufacturing.

This effort is complicated by the fact that, due to its low degree of polymerization (DP<250), MCC cannot be directly spun to fibers with acceptable tensile properties. A solution to this problem would be to chain extend MCC, in a linear fashion, to increase DP to a level of 400 or higher and use this material to produce recycled fiber. Unfortunately, as of today, there is no known procedure to chain extend MCC linearly without substantial chemical modification while using highly toxic chemicals.

The objective of this Challenge is to develop a process to chain extend MCC, in a linear way, to a level of DP>400, a process that would be economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

This is a Prize Challenge which requires a written proposal to be submitted and there will be a guaranteed award for at least one submitted solution. The total payout will be $15,000, with at least one award being no smaller than $5,000 and no award being smaller than $2,500. By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants ICL a right to use any information included in their proposal.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on the 30th October 2023.

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ABOUT THE SEEKER & ELIGIBILITY

ICL, a global manufacturer of products based on unique minerals, fulfills humanity’s essential needs, primarily in three markets: agriculture, food, and engineered materials.

The experience, knowledge, and professionalism derived from establishing Israel’s potash industry over a period of 80 years of intensive activity and major investment in R&D, have transformed ICL into a world leader in specialty fertilizers, bromine, and flame retardants. ICL produces approximately a third of the world’s bromine, and is the world’s sixth largest potash producer, as well as one of its leading producers of pure phosphoric acid.

ICL’s operations are global and are supported by worldwide distribution and supply chains. Our mining and production sites are located in Israel, Europe, North and South America, and China. ICL employs about 13,000 people worldwide.

Employees of the ICL Group and its subsidiaries are ineligible to receive awards for this Challenge.

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THE CHALLENGE

Background

Microcrystalline Cellulose (MCC) is a refined, partially depolymerized cellulose typically derived from wood pulp. Due to its unique qualities—such as high compressibility, low bulk density, and excellent flowability—it’s widely used in pharmaceutical, food, agrobusiness, and cosmetic applications as an excipient, binder, and filler. It can also be used as a thickener, rheology modifier, absorbent, and reinforcing material.

In recent years, MCC has become a major product of recycling polyester/cotton blends of post-consumer textiles. The growing volumes of recycled MCC energized attempts to re-using it back in the textile industry (the so-called “fiber-back-to-fiber” concept).

However, since MCC has a low degree of polymerization (DP<250), it cannot be directly spun to fibers with acceptable tensile properties. The only option available today is to blend 30% MCC with 70% virgin cellulose (derived usually from pulp); the resulting blend gives a high viscosity dope that can be spun.

The major problem with this approach is that it underutilizes already available MCC while, at the same time, keeps consuming virgin cellulose, which requires cutting additional trees.  

A solution to this problem would be to chain extend MCC to increase DP to a level of 400 or higher and use this material to produce 100% recycled fiber. Unfortunately, as of today, there is no known procedure to chain extend MCC in a linear fashion without substantial chemical modification while using highly toxic chemicals, such as acrylonitrile, ethylene glycol dimethacrylate, and 2,2,6-trimethyl-1-piperidinyloxy (TEMPO).

The objective of this Challenge is therefore to develop a process to chain extend MCC linearly to a level of DP>400.

Do you want to talk directly to evaluators and subject matter experts about this Challenge? Join us in a 1hr webinar on Wednesday October 25th 2023 at 2pm BST / 4pm IDT / 9am EDT. You can ask questions and learn more about what evaluators will be looking for in solutions, so register today!

 

SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS & ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA

ICL imposes absolutely no restrictions about the nature of the proposed solution. The proposed approach could be a chemical process that would not use highly toxic chemicals. Alternatively, ICL envisions that a biological process—for example, bacteria-induced fermentation—could be developed.

However, regardless of the specific approach, the proposed technology should meet the following Solution Requirements:

  1. The proposed technology should convert MCC with DP<250 into a linear polymer with DP>400.
  2. The proposed technology should be scalable enough to convert at least 100,000—and ideally 500,000—tons of MCC per year.
  3. If the proposed technology is a chemical process, it should not use toxic chemicals, such as acrylonitrile, ethylene glycol dimethacrylate, and 2,2,6-trimethyl-1-piperidinyloxy (TEMPO).
  4. If the proposed technology is a biological process, it should use commercially available materials and reagents, including bacterial strains.

Solutions with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 3-5 are invited.

This is a Prize Challenge, which has the following features:
 

  1. Proposed solutions in this Prize Challenge have the opportunity to win from the guaranteed award pool of $15,000 for meeting the solution requirements, as solely determined by ICL.
  2. There will be a guaranteed award for at least one submitted solution. The total payout will be $15,000, with at least one award being no smaller than $5,000 and no award being smaller than $2,500.
  3. By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants ICL a right to use any information included in their proposal.

ICL may also issue “Honourable Mention” recognitions for notable submissions that are not selected for monetary awards.

 

YOUR SUBMISSION

Please login and register your interest to complete the submission form.

The submitted proposals must be written in English and should include:

  1. An Abstract and optional conclusion of the proposed solution.
  2. A Detailed Description of the proposed technology that meets the above Solution Requirements.
  3. A rationale as to why the Solver believes that the proposed technology will achieve the objectives of the Challenge. This rationale should address each of the Solution Requirements as described in the Challenge and be supported with relevant examples or precedents.
  4. Any appropriate supporting data, drawings, etc.
  5. ICL may wish to partner with the Solver at the conclusion of the Challenge. Please describe your expertise and include a statement indicating your interest in this opportunity.

 

Wazoku encourages the use by Solvers of AI approaches to help develop their submissions, though any produced solely with generative AI are not of interest.

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Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on the 30th October 2023.

Late submissions will not be considered.

Your submission will be evaluated by the evaluation team first reviewing the information and content you have submitted at the submission form, with attachments used as additional context to your form submission. Submissions relying solely on attachments will receive less attention from the evaluation team.

After the Challenge submission due date, ICL will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s).

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