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New ethanol co-product to enter plastics, film and coatings market

POET is one step closer to gleaning the maximum value from each part of the corn kernel with a new ethanol co-product, “Inviz,” which is set to replace petroleum-based ingredients in household products ranging from pill coatings to plastic packaging.

Inviz is POET’s brand of zein, a biodegradable, low-nutrient protein found in corn. It can be used as a gum base or in films, packaging, adhesives, coatings and glazes. Inviz zein is extracted using a patent-pending process developed by POET.

Inviz is derived from the less valuable protein in POET’s Dakota Gold HP® distiller’s grains. It differs from other zein products because POET’s production process fractionates the corn kernel and ferments ethanol without using heat. For that reason, Inviz is a more pure corn protein than other zein products, which are typically exposed to sulfur dioxide in the wet-milling process.

POET’s research into zein started in 2004 through collaboration with the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, Ill. Those efforts ramped up considerably 2.5 years ago with the hiring of Senior Scientist John Lawton, a leader in zein research, from the NCAUR. Lawton was intrigued by the potential for zein in POET’s no-cook ethanol production.

“Inviz can be used to make biodegradable plastics, time-release capsules for pills and other substances, varnish, there are just so many possibilities,” Lawton said. “It has been the focus of much of my research throughout my career, and I’m excited to see this product brought to market.”

POET CEO Jeff Broin sees a lot of unrealized potential in the zein market, and he expects Inviz to open up many new uses for corn.

“The corn kernel has so much untapped potential,” Broin said. “With Inviz, we are still providing fuel and high-protein feed to the world while using the least nutritional part of the kernel to replace even more petroleum-based products.”

Some of Lawton’s previous research regarding zein includes: Zein: A History of Processing and Use and Plasticizers for zein: Their effect on tensile properties and water absorption of zein films.

Zein is a class of prolamine proteins found in corn that has a number of unique characteristics and functionalities. Pure zein is colorless, odorless, tasteless, hard, water-insoluble, edible and biodegradable. Zein has also achieved Generally Regarded As Safe (G.R.A.S.) status from the FDA.

Inviz is zein extracted from POET’s Dakota Gold HP distiller’s grains. This high-protein feed is possible thanks to POET’s patent-pending technologies, BFRAC™ and BPX®. BFRAC separates the corn into three fractions: fiber, germ and endosperm. The endosperm is fermented to created ethanol, while the remaining fractions are converted into value-added co-products such as Dakota Gold HP. BPX, POET’s raw starch hydrolysis process, converts starch to sugar and ferments to ethanol with the use of enzymes rather than heat.

An interview with POET Senior Scientist John Lawton is available on the POET Web site.

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