The CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in Pune has successfully demonstrated the operations of a pilot plant capable of manufacturing Bisphenol-A, a key raw material with high demand for manufacturing engineering plastics globally. The facility was inaugurated recently by Dr Jitendra Singh, minister of state for science and technology, during his visit to Pune.
Presently, India does not manufacture this raw material. Estimates say that India imports about 1.35 lakh tonnes of Bisphenol-A annually, and major exporters are companies based in the US and China.
The material has wide-scale applications as coating material for food and beverage cans in the packaging industry, in electronics and automobile components, and for the overall manufacture of engineering plastics. However, of late, higher traces of Bisphenol-A have been found in milk bottles for babies and cases of it leaching through food cans have also been reported.
Under the Bulk Chemicals mission programme of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Pune-based lab has set up a continuous catalytic pilot-scale process on its campus. This plant’s operations were tested for efficiency for 45 continuous days and scientists associated with the programme said that they had achieved about 90 to 95 per cent conversion of the raw material and acetone, that too in steady state operations.
“At NCL, we have proven the availability of the continuous process for the manufacturing of Bisphenol-A,” said Sanjay Kamble from the Chemical Engineering and Process Development Division at NCL.
A major advantage from this process, the NCL scientists say, is the provision to recycle all unreacted and leftover phenol involved in the chemical process, resulting in savings in the overall cost of production of the final product.
“Using our indigenously developed technology, the unreacted phenol can be recycled for producing more Bisphenol-A without compromising the quality as required for the industry. While doing so, our technology makes use of minimal solvents and generates limited waste water,” explained Kamble.
In fact, after getting a go-ahead from industries who tested the NCL-made Bisphenol-A, the scientists are now in talks with industries for technology transfer, scaling up and co-development for manufacturing at a commercial scale in India.
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