SBIR-STTR-Success: Mango Materials, Inc.
Methane gas, which is over twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide, is commonly produced by waste at landfills. Power companies have been using this methane gas for years to convert to energy, however, it was only recently that a company first discovered they could use this gas to produce a naturally occurring biopolymer that could compete with conventional oil-based plastics. This biopolymer can be used to create a variety of products, most specifically in the cosmetics packaging industry as an alternative to polypropylene.
A Phase I SBIR grant in 2012 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) spring boarded the company when the agency was looking for a method to produce a polymer from methane that could be converted into eco-friendly plastic products. Until this point, any non-petroleum plastic alternative was cost prohibitive and energy intensive to produce. Mango Materials focused on methane derived from wastewater treatment plants. They ran the system for 200 days and proved the process could succeed even in the most non-sterile of environments. With a follow-on Phase II and Phase IIB award, the company scaled the technology, and started producing 10 pounds of their polymer each week.
While at an event in the Bay Area, Mango Materials learned that NASA may be interested in the production of biopolymers in space. The company is currently embarking on a Phase II STTR with the agency in hopes that their material can eventually be manufactured in a microgravity environment. Mango Materials was recently selected as a Hello Tomorrow Semifinalist within the new materials category and will be traveling to Paris, France to be among an elite group of companies chosen from all over the world.