23 Feb Starting Up: Company started at UW-Madison hopes to make paint production greener
Faux leather, latex paints, adhesives, no-chip nail polish — all of these and more are made with a key ingredient that’s made from petroleum and comes at a high price point, but a Madison-based startup says it can make the same chemical out of corn and wood chips.
Kevin Barnett, CEO of Pyran, said his company’s process for creating 1,5-pentanediol (1,5-PDO), which is used in a multitude of paints and coatings, out of plant materials is not just more environmentally friendly than the current petroleum-based method; it’s also cheaper.
Barnett discovered the plant-based method while working on his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at UW-Madison in professor George Huber’s lab. Huber and his team had a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to focus on more sustainable production of everyday chemicals that are typically made from petroleum.
“What paints and coatings companies really want is to save money,” Barnett said. “If they could also have a sustainable product, then great, but that’s not the first priority.”
Barnett said he’s been in discussions with paper and pulp companies in northern Wisconsin about using their excess materials from production to make furfural.
From harvesting the plant to the final chemical, Pyran’s method of creating 1,5-PDO cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared with the current method based on petroleum, Barnett said.