Navigation Links
Breakthrough could lead to cheaper, more sustainable chemical production
Date:3/21/2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] A key advance, newly reported by chemists from Brown and Yale Universities, could lead to a cheaper and more sustainable way to make acrylate, an important commodity chemical used to make materials from polyester fabrics to diapers.

Chemical companies churn out billions of tons of acrylate each year, usually by heating propylene, a compound derived from crude oil. "What we're interested in is enhancing both the economics and the sustainability of how acrylate is made," said Wesley Bernskoetter, assistant professor of chemistry at Brown, who led the research. "Right now, everything that goes into making it is from relatively expensive, nonrenewable carbon sources."

Since the 1980s researchers have been looking into the possibility of making acrylate by combining carbon dioxide with a gas called ethylene in the presence of nickel and other metal catalysts. CO2 is essentially free and something the planet currently has in overabundance. Ethylene is cheaper than propylene and can be made from plant biomass.

There has been a persistent obstacle to the approach, however. Instead of forming the acrylate molecule, CO2 and ethylene tend to form a precursor molecule with a five-membered ring made of oxygen, nickel, and three carbon atoms. In order to finish the conversion to acrylate, that ring needs to be cracked open to allow the formation of a carbon-carbon double bond, a process called elimination.

That step had proved elusive. But the research by Bernskoetter and his colleagues, published in the journal Organometallics, shows that a class of chemicals called Lewis acids can easily break open that five-membered ring, allowing the molecule to eliminate and form acrylate.

Lewis acids are basically electron acceptors. In this case, the acid steals away electrons that make up the bond between nickel and oxygen in the ring. That weakens the bond and opens the ring.

"We thought that if we could find a way to cut the ring chemically, then we would be able to eliminate very quickly and form acrylate," Bernskoetter said. "And that turns out to be true."

He calls the finding an "enabling technology" that could eventually be incorporated in a full catalytic process for making acrylate on a mass scale. "We can now basically do all the steps required," he said.

From here, the team needs to tweak the strength of the Lewis acid used. To prove the concept, they used the strongest acid that was easily available, one derived from boron. But that acid is too strong to use in a repeatable catalytic process because it bonds too strongly to the acrylate product to allow additional reactions with the nickel catalyst.

"In developing and testing the idea, we hit it with the biggest hammer we could," Bernskoetter said. "So what we have to do now is dial back and find one that makes it more practical."

There's quite a spectrum of Lewis acid strengths, so Bernskoetter is confident that there's one that will work. "We think it's possible," he said. "Organic chemists do this kind of reaction with Lewis acids all the time."

The ongoing research is part of a collaboration between Brown and Yale supported by the National Science Foundation's Centers for Chemical Innovation program. The work is aimed at activating CO2 for use in making all kinds of commodity chemicals, and acrylate is a good place to start.

"It's around a $2 billion-a-year industry," Bernskoetter said. "If we can find a way to make acrylate more cheaply, we think the industry will be interested."


'/>"/>

Contact: Kevin Stacey
kevin_stacey@brown.edu
401-863-3766
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Nottingham technology in heart development breakthrough
2. Flu breakthrough: New drug developed to combat flu pandemic
3. Breakthrough study opens door to broader biomedical applications for Raman spectroscopy
4. Explosive breakthrough in research on molecular recognition
5. Stem cell breakthrough could lead to new bone repair therapies on nanoscale surfaces
6. A Spanish breakthrough allows the electroporation of cell cultures for less than 1 Euro
7. Recent breakthroughs in cocoa flavanol research discussed by European research consortium and expert panel
8. Breakthrough: How salt stops plant growth
9. Genetic sequencing breakthrough to aid treatment for congenital hyperinsulinism
10. Plant organ development breakthrough
11. USDA scientists and cooperators sequence the wheat genome in breakthrough for global food security
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/8/2017)... , Feb. 7, 2017 Report Highlights ... by 2021 from $8.3 billion in 2016 at a ... to 2021. Report Includes - An overview of ... market trends, with data from 2015 and 2016, and ... - Segmentation of the market on the basis of ...
(Date:2/7/2017)... , February 7, 2017 Ipsidy ... Solutions Corporation [OTC: IDGS], ("Ipsidy" or the "Company") a ... transaction processing services, is pleased to announce the following ... Effective January 31, 2017, Philip D. ... Directors, CEO and President.  An experienced payment industry professional ...
(Date:2/3/2017)... A new independent identity strategy consultancy firm announces its ... to fill a critical niche in technical and policy ... Mark Crego and Janice Kephart together ... that span federal governments, the 9/11 Commission, private industry, ... has a common theme born from a shared passion ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/18/2017)... ... February 17, 2017 , ... The ... and the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) will take ... , The combined scientific sessions offer investigators, clinicians, laboratory technicians, clinical ...
(Date:2/17/2017)...  BioGenex, a global leader in molecular pathology, ... system for quantitative immunohistochemistry (IHC). The system was ... (NY, USA) and Konica-Minolta Inc. ( Tokyo, ... to accurately quantify the expression of an important ... receptor-2) in clinical samples. Quantitative IHC is achieved ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... ... February 16, 2017 , ... EIT Digital has launched ... the agricultural industry. Pilot studies are about to get under way for the framework, ... and 5G innovations. The concept is expected to be transferred eventually to other industries ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... Feb. 16, 2017  MDNA Life Sciences Inc. ... of liquid biopsy tests based on the mitochondrial ... exclusive license agreement with its first international commercial ... biopsy test for prostate cancer, the Prostate Mitomic ... . This is the first overseas appointment for ...
Breaking Biology Technology: