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Pathway to truly sustainable geotextiles

News | June 6, 2023 | By:

For several geotextile applications, longevity and durability are important factors in order to fulfill their function in soil reinforcement and protection. However, geotextiles with a much shorter life-span, which are designed to degrade after a certain time period, are in demand.

Biodegradable geotextiles are perfect for applications where once they have completed their task they biodegrade and disappear from view without the generation of persistent microplastics. These materials are used for preventing soil erosion until the seeded vegetation can take over this function or the floor is sufficiently consolidated. Thus, the geotextile should degrade after a couple of months or years into environmentally compatible components, which obviates the need of material re-collection and recovery. It also overcomes the emerging environmental issues with polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) geotextiles concerning soil pollution and accumulation of microplastics.

For these sort of geotextiles, natural fibers are an option. Most of these utilize natural fibers such as jute, coir or sisal. However, natural fibers with high cellulose contents initially exhibit high mechanical strength but early aging effects significantly decrease in the textile’s integrity and efficiency.

Together with natural variations in fiber properties, difficulties during the spinning process and varying environmental influences, lifetime prediction of natural fiber geotextiles becomes challenging and hence they are still rarely used in commercial products.

The field of biodegradable geotextiles is rapidly gaining attention due to its potential environmental benefits and solution to the formation of microplastics from PP and PET geotextiles. A relative newcomer to this space is PBS which can solve the above problems. PBS is attracting increased attention for geotextiles due to the potential for bio-based production, as well as its balanced properties, enhanced processability, and excellent biodegradability.

What is PBS?

PBS is a biodegradable aliphatic polyester with excellent biodegradability, as well as thermal/UV and mechanical properties, which makes it suitable for the textile industry usage as a filament and a split yarn. The monomers can either be derived from petrochemical or bio-based chemicals (bacterial fermentation) and the latter is called bio-based poly (butylene succinate) or Bio-PBS.

PBS is a white crystalline thermoplastic polymer with a density of 1.25 g/cm3, a melting point (Tm) in the range of 90–120 °C, and a low glass transition temperature (Tg) of about −45 to −10 °C.

PBS has properties that are comparable to PP and PET thus making it ideal for geotextiles. PBS can be used to make 100% biodegradable, mechanically bonded nonwoven geotextiles. Due to its certified biodegradability, residues of the product do not harm the environment. Also, PBS can be made UV-resistant and therefore be used in uncovered applications. PBS geotextiles’ excellent mechanical properties allow them to resist mechanical stresses during installation and construction.

How is PBS made?

Basically, PBS is synthesized through a polycondensation reaction between 1,4-butanediol and succinic acid. For bio-based monomers, succinic acid could be derived from glucose, which can be obtained from various sources of bio-feedstock through bacterial fermentation, while hydrogenation of succinic acid will produce 1,4-butandiol, which is required for PBS synthesis.

The synthesis of PBS requires two steps, which are esterification between diacid (succinic acid) and diol (1,4-butanediol), forming oligomers, followed by polycondensation at high temperature to form high MW PBS. The high MW PBS is better suited to geotextile applications. By blending PBS with its adipic acid-derived version, PBSA, the biodegradation rate can be adjusted. Precise control of biodegradation time can be achieved by selection of specific blend ratios of PBS:PBSA.

Potential applications of PBS geotextiles

PBS geotextiles can find wide-ranging applications in various fields including:

Separation, filtration, and protection layers: PBS geotextiles can be used as separation, filtration, and protection layers in road construction and geotechnical projects. They provide stability, prevent intermixing of different soil layers, and enhance filtration and drainage capabilities.

Landscaping and vegetative embankments: PBS geotextiles can play a vital role in landscaping projects and the construction of vegetative embankments. They help in soil stabilization, erosion control, and the establishment of healthy vegetation.

Temporary paths, access, and road construction: PBS geotextiles can be utilized for creating temporary paths, access roads, and in road construction projects where temporary stabilization is required. They provide temporary reinforcement and prevent soil displacement.

Embankment protection and natural-related waterway construction: PBS geotextiles can be used as protective layers for embankments and contribute to the construction of waterways with a natural appearance. They offer erosion control, slope stability, and protection against water-induced damage.

Coastal protection: In coastal areas, PBS geotextiles can be employed for coastal protection purposes. They can be used as single nonwoven geotextile layers or in combination with sand containers to prevent erosion, stabilize coastlines, and maintain beach integrity.

Scour protection: PBS geotextiles in the form of geotextile sand containers can be utilized for scour protection. They act as a barrier to prevent soil erosion and protect structures such as bridge abutments, piers, and embankments from the effects of water currents.

Where do you get PBS?

PBS can be sourced from the Mitsubishi Chemicals JV called PTTMCC in Thailand:

PTTMMC have a PBS fiber business segment and a production plant in Rayong Thailand.

PTTMCC PBS Compostable Grade namely FZ78TM has the following attributes that make it
ideal for geotextiles:

Good processability and wide process window

Using conventional fiber spinning machine

High-speed spin continuity of low denier fibers

Uniform viscosity or melt flow rate

Low gels hence low fiber breakage rates

OK compost INDUSTRIAL certified by TÜV Austria in European Union

Renewable content certified by DIN CERTCO, JBPA and USDA

Contacts at PTTMCC: |

Should you require technical assistance to use PBS for your geotextile application these PBS
industry experts would be happy to assist:

Dr. Anita Haider (Project Manager) at RUBIO

Dr.-Ing. Joachim Venus (Head) ATB Potsdam

Dr. Martina Prambauer at TCKT

How to acquire IP for PBS geotextiles?

PBS has recently emerged as a promising material for the development of innovative biodegradable geotextiles. However, the patent landscape surrounding PBS geotextiles is relatively sparse, presenting a significant opportunity for intellectual property (IP) development in this area. This section delves into the current state of patenting in PBS geotextiles and highlights the potential and IP upside for lodging patents in this field.

Before exploring the patent potential of PBS geotextiles, it is essential to grasp the concept of Patent Landscape Reports (PLRs). PLRs offer a comprehensive analysis of the patent situation in a specific technology area, either on a national, regional, or global scale. These reports provide valuable insights into existing patents, prior art, and the legal status of patents. They serve various purposes, including guiding policy discussions, informing research strategies, facilitating technology transfer, and evaluating patent validity.

A thorough examination of the patent landscape for PBS geotextiles reveals a limited number of patents and prior art in this domain. This scarcity implies a significant opportunity for inventors and geosynthetic companies to secure IP protection for their innovations in the field of PBS geotextiles. The paucity of existing patents indicates that there is ample room for novel and inventive applications of PBS in geotextile manufacturing.

The utilization of PBS in geotextiles offers several advantages, such as its biodegradability, mechanical strength, and compatibility with various geotextile forms, including woven and non-woven fabrics, as well as geosynthetic clay liners (GCLs) and other geocomposites. These unique properties make PBS an attractive material for sustainable geotextile applications. Consequently, innovators in this field have an exceptional opportunity to file patents and secure exclusive rights to their PBS geotextile inventions.

Lodging patents for PBS geotextiles serves several strategic purposes. Firstly, it enables inventors and geosynthetic manufacturers to protect their novel applications and manufacturing processes, preventing others from replicating or profiting from their innovations. Patents also provide a basis for licensing agreements, allowing patent holders to generate revenue by granting others the right to use their technology. Furthermore, patents can strengthen the competitive position of companies by establishing barriers to entry for potential competitors.

Given the limited prior art and existing patents, the future growth potential of PBS geotextiles is substantial. As awareness of the environmental benefits of biodegradable geotextiles increases, the demand for innovative PBS-based solutions is likely to rise. This presents opportunities for collaboration between industry players, research institutions, and inventors to explore and develop new applications of PBS in geotextiles. Collaborative efforts can lead to collective patenting strategies, creating a robust IP landscape and fostering advancements in the field.

Since the current patent landscape for PBS geotextiles is relatively sparse there is a significant immediate opportunity for inventors and organizations to secure IP rights in this field. The unique properties of PBS make it an attractive material for the development of biodegradable geotextiles, and patenting innovations in this domain can provide strategic advantages, including exclusivity, licensing opportunities, and competitive positioning. As the demand for sustainable geotextile solutions grows, collaboration and collective patenting efforts can further propel advancements in PBS geotextiles, paving the way for a more robust and innovative industry.

To capitalize on the patent and IP potential in PBS geotextiles, it is crucial for inventors and organizations to conduct comprehensive research and analysis. This involves a thorough exploration of existing patents, identification of white spaces or areas of limited prior art, and the development of inventive applications and manufacturing processes. By leveraging the unique properties of PBS and addressing specific needs within the geotextile industry, inventors can create valuable intellectual property assets.

In addition to filing patents, it is important to consider the broader IP strategy. This includes protecting trade secrets, trademarks, and copyrights associated with PBS geotextiles. A comprehensive IP strategy can help establish a strong market presence, enhance brand recognition, and safeguard valuable knowledge and expertise.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing also play a significant role in maximizing the patent and IP potential in PBS geotextiles. Engaging in partnerships with research institutions (e.g. Exipnos, ATB Potsdam and TCKT), industry experts (PTTMCC), and other stakeholders can foster innovation, facilitate access to complementary technologies, and broaden the scope of potential applications. Collaborative efforts can lead to joint patent filings, cross-licensing agreements, and the pooling of resources to tackle complex challenges.

Furthermore, it is essential to stay updated with the evolving patent landscape and monitor any new developments or emerging technologies related to PBS geotextiles. Regular monitoring of patent filings, scientific literature, and industry trends can provide valuable insights into the competitive landscape, identify potential licensing opportunities, and help avoid infringement on existing patents.

In conclusion, the patent and IP potential in PBS geotextiles presents a significant opportunity for inventors, organizations, and the geotextile industry as a whole. With a relatively sparse patent landscape and numerous untapped applications, there is ample room for innovative solutions and IP protection. By strategically filing patents, engaging in collaborations, and staying informed about the evolving landscape, stakeholders can position themselves at the forefront of the PBS geotextile industry, driving sustainability, and reaping the rewards of their intellectual property. Information courtesy of John Scheirs, ExcelPlas.

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