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Petroleum-Free Polymers from Fructose
Sarah Rich, 29 Jun 06

dumesic_hmf.jpg More evidence to support my theory that sugar is the best substance in the world: A research group at the UW Madison has just released a report on more efficient and less costly means of converting fructose (fruit sugar) from biomass into a chemical compound used for producing plastics, fuel-additives and biofuel (called HMF).

According to UW Madison's own news source:

The new process goes beyond making fuel from plants to make industrial chemicals from plants...Dumesic's research group made a series of improvements that raised the HMF output, and also made the HMF easier to extract.
Once made, HMF is fairly easy to convert into plastics or diesel fuel. Although the biodiesel that has made headlines lately is made from a fat (even used cooking oil), not a sugar, both processes have similar environmental and economic benefits, Dumesic says. Instead of buying petroleum from abroad, the raw material would come from domestic agriculture. Expanding the source of raw material should also depress the price of petroleum.

The idea itself is not new, and in fact, Madison has long been a hotbed for research into biomass conversion for kicking the petroleum habit. Professor James Dumesic and his team, however, have broken new ground in terms of creating a process that can compete economically with the more conventional and unsustainable models.

According to a Wired article on the subject:

Initially, producing plastics this way might require some investment, but the long-term gain would be that the process is much cleaner than petroleum-based methods. While using petroleum dumps new carbon dioxide into the air, the carbon dioxide released when extracting chemicals from plants is created from molecules that are already in the ecosystem. As long as the biomass of plants remains relatively stable around the world, the balance of carbon dioxide naturally occurring in the atmosphere should remain, and global warming should not be significantly affected.

From the sound of it, if the patent pans out, the process will not only be groundbreaking in terms of economic viability for biomass-produced material, but also for the sheer breadth of products that could be made in this way. Considering that polymers comprise nearly every material thing we interact with in the world, it's a pretty vast arena.

This reminded me of Plantic, a biodegradable, non-toxic plastic that was recently spotted in the blogosphere as someone's rather surprising snack. I suspect, however, that these fructose-derived polymers will not have much to offer in the culinary department.

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Comments

Very exciting!
If the manufacturers can be convinced not to add toxic materials (used to extend the life and durability of the material), they'll really have something. I fear that bioplastics can't really be recycled until this is done.


Posted by: justus on 30 Jun 06

Anything that takes plastics industry off petrochemical use is a good thing. Plastics in general are hard to recycle. I don't think these will be that much harder.


Posted by: Pace Arko on 30 Jun 06

VERY NICE N WONDERFUL. WE WANT TO FURTHER FOLLOW N PROBABLY ONE DAY BUY ANY PATENT/INVENTIONS.TX.


Posted by: LUKAS Z on 15 Jul 06



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