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EPA Expands Agreement to Further Work in Green Chemistry

On February 15, 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL) in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Kreido Biofuels, Inc. (Kreido) of Camarillo, California, announced the expansion of an existing Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). This effort is part of the EPA's Office of Research and Development's Sustainability Research Program. The original CRADA was signed in 2004 to develop and commercialize green and sustainable chemistries for the synthesis of industrial chemicals using Kreido's patented Spinning Tube-in-Tube (STT®) reactor technology. What makes this CRADA unique is the inclusion of a mechanism that allows third-party companies to enter into the relationship and have the EPA confidentially develop and test alternative processes using Kreido's reactor technology.

The STT® technology is comprised of two cylinders, a rotor and a stator, positioned with one inside of the other. The external cylinder (stator) remains stationary while the internal cylinder (rotor) rotates at speeds up to 12,000 rpm depending on the reactor model. Reactants are fed into the reactor and then flow into the narrow annular gap formed between the cylinders, and are subjected to Couette flow without the formation of Taylor vortices (i.e., the materials achieve laminar flow without the formation of turbulence). The materials subjected to Couette flow then behave as thin films. This property allows a fundamentally different approach to chemical reactions than the standard batch or continuous flow mixing vessels. These traditional methods rely on the physics of mass transfer as opposed to physics related to thin films, as experienced in the STT® reactor. In particular, the STT® technology provides an increased level of mixing and minimizes or eliminates issues related to viscosity, solubility and miscibility encountered with traditional methods.

Dr. Michael Gonzalez, Acting Chief of EPA-NRMRL Systems Analysis Branch, said, "An advantage of the STT® technology is the ability to enhance the solubility of gases into the reaction medium due to the presence of a thin film. The technology is an excellent example of the implementation of green chemistry/green engineering. With traditional processes, solvents are utilized to increase the potential of the components to mix or to mediate the reaction. By using the STT® reactor, we have found that you can eliminate the need for solvents because the technology increases the mixing between the reagents and thus increases the frequency of collisions between the reactant molecules, which, in turn, increases the rate of reaction."

The STT® technology is designed to provide precise control of the reaction variables. Because of the characteristics of thin-film mixing and the precise control of reaction variables, processes utilizing the STT® technology typically have much higher yields, product selectivity, and production rates (throughput) when compared to traditional processes. Systems incorporating the STT® technology also have very small physical and environmental footprints, exemplifying the concept of process intensification. A bench-scale system (Magellan model) has a reaction zone volume of 1.5 mL. A pilot scale (100 series model) system typically has a holdover volume of between 10 mL and 100 mL. A commercial system can have a reaction volume of up to 1 liter. This range of sizes allows for rapid movement from initial research and development to commercial production capability. These factors taken together result in reduced reagent quantities and provide safer, more cost-effective processes.

Under the prior CRADA, EPA-NRMRL has tested more than 15 third-party companies' alternative chemistries for their processes and products. These companies included many Fortune 500 firms, and the tested processes included pharmaceutical product and paint manufacturing, among others. With this work and EPA-NRMRL presentations at industry conferences as references, Kreido has licensed two Magellan STT® systems to Fortune 500 companies for research and development purposes.

Under the new CRADA, Kreido will provide EPA-NRMRL with a Magellan STT® bench-scale system, as well as training and technical support. The technical support will include the advice and expertise of Dr. Robert G. Bergman, Gerald E.K. Branch Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Jonathon A. Ellman, Professor of Chemistry, both at the University of California, Berkeley. Joel Balbien, Kreido Biofuels CEO, said, "Working with the EPA is beneficial to a small company because the EPA can provide staff expertise and lab facilities that many small companies simply can't afford."

"Being associated with the EPA-NRMRL," Dr. Balbien continued, "gives a significant degree of credibility to an emerging company and technology, and provides a tremendous boost to the company—both with investors and with corporate partners. Fortune 500 companies have tried our technology at the EPA-NRMRL. They like to work with the EPA when testing a new technology because they want a bit of separation between the technology supplier and themselves. The EPA has created an environment where companies can collaborate."

In addition to continuing the evaluations of third-party alternative processes under the new CRADA, the collaborative team will further develop some of the green chemical processes identified under the prior CRADA as being of potential commercial interest. As these processes are developed, Kreido will seek to commercialize those that meet appropriate technical and economic standards.

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Spring 2007
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