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Volume 6
2011

MSU Chemists Research, Develop, and Deploy Green Technology

MSU chemist and entrepreneur John Frost in his lab at Draths Corp. in Okemos
MSU chemist and entrepreneur John Frost in his lab at Draths Corp. in Okemos

John and Karen Frost wear many hats. They are chemists as well as entrepreneurs, employers, and innovative leaders in a field that has captured the mood of investors in the United States, and perhaps the world, who are looking for alternatives to petroleum-based products.

Draths Corporation built a new $20 million pilot manufacturing plant in mid-Michigan...and estimates the expansion will create 200 new direct jobs and an additional 442 indirectly.

In 2005 the Frosts founded the Draths Corporation, a company that combines chemistry, biology, and genetic engineering to develop chemical manufacturing processes that utilize renewable resources as feedstocks in place of petroleum-derived feedstocks. John Frost is a University Distinguished Professor in the MSU Department of Chemistry. Karen Frost left her assistant professor position in the department to focus her efforts full time at Draths. MSU Technologies licensed the technologies developed at MSU by the Frosts to Draths Corporation. The Frosts' current work with "green technology" involves preparing identical starter chemicals from sugar instead of petroleum. According to Karen Frost, "Other renewable companies have sought to use sugar to make new chemicals but many of those have less desirable physical properties." One Draths target is a starter chemical for nylon manufacture, which would supply consumer goods makers with cost-effective processes that create compounds without petroleum.

Draths Corporation develops chemical manufacturing processes that utilize renewable resources as feedstocks.
Draths Corporation develops chemical manufacturing processes that utilize renewable resources as feedstocks.

"Our challenge is to produce a high enough yield that can be useful to larger corporations for product development. After several discussions, it was clear that we needed to expand our business model and take the next steps to scale up the chemical intermediaries for commercial technology use," said John Frost. "We conduct research, development, and deployment."

In August 2009, the Draths Corporation received a state tax credit through the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) to help the company expand by building a new $20 million pilot manufacturing plant in mid-Michigan, rather than at a competing site in Minnesota. The tax credit was valued at $5.2 million over 10 years, and it was estimated that the expansion would create 200 new jobs directly, with an additional 442 indirectly.

  • Top photograph courtesy of University Relations, Michigan State University
  • Bottom photograph courtesy of Paul Phipps, University Outreach and Engagement

Contact

  • John W. Frost
  • University Distinguished Professor, Chemistry
  • College of Natural Science
  • (517) 355-9715 ext. 115
  • frostj@msu.edu

Source

  1. Hills, C. (2009, October). MSU chemists create renewable resources technology. The Engaged Scholar E-Newsletter, 2(1). Retrieved from http://engagedscholar.msu.edu/enewsletter/volume2/issue1/frost.aspx