Navigation Links
Plastic that grows on trees, part two

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Some researchers hope to turn plants into a renewable, nonpolluting replacement for crude oil. To achieve this, scientists have to learn how to convert plant biomass into a building block for plastics and fuels cheaply and efficiently. In new research, chemists have successfully converted cellulose -- the most common plant carbohydrate -- directly into the building block called HMF in one step.

The result builds upon earlier work by researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In that work<>, scientists produced HMF from simple sugars derived from cellulose. In this new work, researchers developed a way to bypass the sugar-forming step and go straight from cellulose to HMF. This simple process generates a high yield of HMF and allows the use of raw cellulose as feed material, the researchers report in an upcoming issue of Applied Catalysis A.

"In biomass like wood, corn stover and switchgrass, cellulose is the most abundant polymer that researchers are trying to convert to biofuels and plastics," said chemist Z. Conrad Zhang, who led the work while at PNNL's Institute for Interfacial Catalysis.

HMF, also known as 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, can be used as a building block for plastics and "biofuels" such as gasoline and diesel, essentially the same fuels processed from crude oil. In previous work, PNNL researchers used a chemical and a solvent known as an ionic liquid to convert the simple sugars into HMF.

The chemical, a metal chloride known as chromium chloride, converted sugar into highly pure HMF. But to be able to feed cellulosic biomass directly from nature, the team still needed to break down cellulose into simple sugars -- Zhang and colleagues wanted to learn how to skip that step.

The ionic liquid has the added benefit of being able to dissolve cellulose, which as anyone who's boiled leafy vegetables knows can be stringy and hard to dissolve. Compounds called catalysts speed up the conversion of cellulose to HMF. After trying different metal chloride catalysts in the ionic solvent, they found a pair of catalysts that worked well: A combination of copper chloride and chromium chloride under 120 degrees Celsius broke down the cellulose without creating a lot of unwanted byproducts.

In additional experiments, the team tested how well their method compared to acid, a common way to break down cellulose. The metal chlorides-ionic liquid system worked ten times faster than the acid and at much lower temperatures. In addition, the paired metal chloride catalysts allowed Zhang's research team to avoid using another compound under investigation, a mineral acid, that is known to degrade HMF.

Optimizing their method, the team found that they could consistently achieve a high yield of HMF -- the method converted about 57 percent of the sugar content in the cellulose feedstock to HMF through this single step process. The team recovered more than 90% of the HMF formed, and the final product from the process was 96% pure.

In addition, the metal chlorides and ionic liquid could be reused multiple times without losing their effectiveness. Being able to recycle the materials will lower the cost of HMF production.

"This paper is a tremendous breakthrough. By combining the cellulose-breakdown and sugar-conversion steps, we are very close to a single-step method of converting raw biomass into a new platform chemical -- a chemical you can readily turn into a transportation fuel or for synthesis of plastics and other useful materials," said PNNL geochemist and study coauthor Jim Amonette. "Advances like this can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels."


Contact: Mary Beckman
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Related biology news :

1. Hormone-mimics in plastic water bottles -- just the tip of the iceberg?
2. Stanford researchers develop biodegradable substitutes for wood, plastic bottles and other materials
3. Green plastics could help reduce carbon footprint
4. Plastic and reconstructive surgery -- in brief
5. Astrocytes and synaptic plasticity
6. 6 environmental research studies reveal critical health risks from plastic
7. Kalyon wins Society of Plastics Engineers 2008 Research Award
8. Plastics suspect in lobster illness
9. Iowa Corn Promotion Board, NJIT to license breakthrough, safe bio-plastic alternative
10. Protein fibrils as alternative plastics?
11. Reproductive plasticity revealed: Neotropical treefrog can choose to lay eggs in water or on land
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/18/2015)... , Nov. 18, 2015  As new scientific ... children, doctors and other healthcare providers face challenges in ... families and patients. In addition, as more children continue ... a patient,s adulthood and old age. John ... The Children,s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) . ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... Paris , qui s,est tenu ... Paris , qui s,est tenu du 17 au ... l,innovation biométrique, a inventé le premier scanner couplé, qui ... même surface de balayage. Jusqu,ici, deux scanners étaient nécessaires, ... digitales. Désormais, un seul scanner est en mesure de ...
(Date:11/16/2015)... Nov 16, 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: ... solutions, today announced expansion of its TDDI product ... touch controller and display driver integration (TDDI) solutions ... These new TDDI products add to the previously-announced ... TD4302 (WQHD resolution), and TD4322 (FHD resolution) solutions. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: ... a fireside chat discussion at the Piper Jaffray 27th ... . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, ... .  A replay will be available for 14 days ... , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business Development , ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... , ... The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced Dr. Bruce Clarke, ... annually since 1961, the USGA Green Section Award recognizes an individual’s distinguished service to ... Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an extension specialist of turfgrass pathology in the department ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... healthy metabolism. But unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also toxic ... (NIH), researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , November 24, 2015 ... market research report "Oligonucleotide Synthesis Market by Product & ... Gene Synthesis, Diagnostic, DNA, RNAi), End-User (Research, Pharmaceutical & ... by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to reach USD ... 2015, at a CAGR of 10.1% during the forecast ...
Breaking Biology Technology: