ST. PAUL, MN - Cargill Dow Polymers LLC and The Dow Chemical Co. has announced plans to commercialize a "breakthrough" line of resins based on agricultural products ...

ST. PAUL, MN - Cargill Dow Polymers LLC, a 50-50 joint venture of Cargill Inc. and The Dow Chemical Co., has announced plans to commercialize a "breakthrough" line of resins based on agricultural products, with initial uses of the "NatureWorks" PLA polymers expected in fiber, textile, and nonwoven-fabric applications. The venture company anticipates that the corn-based resin products will also find uses in paint, coatings, adhesives and other products.

Cargill Dow Polymers also announced plans to build a manufacturing plant to produce the polymers. The facility, to be located in Blair, NE, is expected to begin operation in 2001 and have an annual production capacity of 140,000 metric tons. The companies said they are investing more than $300 million in the venture business and the production facility.

The NatureWorks polymers are produced by a proprietary process using natural plant sugar to create a polylactide polymer (PLA). Cargill Dow said the polymers are expected to find use in a number of emerging applications over the next few years, including emulsions, chemical intermediates, packaging, and foams. Initially, Cargill Dow Polymers said it will use sugars derived from corn as the basis for production of the polymers. Eventually, other sources will be used, including wheat, sugar beets and agricultural waste, the company said.

As water-based emulsions, Cargill Dow says the polymers offer potential for a range of uses, including applications in paint; paper coatings and pigments; binders for building products and nonwoven fabrics; and adhesives.

The company also said the polymers are expected to provide the basis for the development of a range of derivatives that will compete with conventional materials on a cost and performance basis. Those anticipated derivatives will include solvents, surfactants, plasticizers, and acrylic esters.

Information on the NatureWorks products is available on the Cargill Dow Polymers Web site,