New catalyst could improve production of glass alternatives

August 21, 2012
UO chemists' catalyst could improve production of glass alternatives

( -- University of Oregon chemists have identified a catalyst that could dramatically reduce the amount of waste made in the production of methyl methacrylate, a monomer used in the large-scale manufacturing of lightweight, shatter-resistant alternatives to glass such as Plexiglas.

David Tyler, Charles J. and M. Monteith Jacobs Professor of Chemistry, will present his findings Tuesday at the national meeting of the , Aug. 19-23 in Philadelphia, Penn.

of methyl methacrylate was 4 million metric tons in 2010. Each kilogram produced also yields 2.5 kilograms of ammonium hydrogen sulfate, a corrosive that is not usable. Disposal of ammonium hydrogen sulfate is extremely energy intensive, consuming 2 percent of the energy used in Texas annually.

Tyler’s team has identified a catalyst that doesn’t produce ammonium hydrogen sulfate. The university is securing a provisional patent for the catalyst.

“There were some really fundamental chemical reasons why previous catalysts didn’t work with this process,” Tyler said. “We’ve found a catalyst that overcomes all of those objections.”

With the identification of a working catalyst, Tyler will focus his research on how to accelerate the conversion to methyl methacrylate. The industrial standard for a practical catalyst is conversion of acetone cyanohydrin into methyl methacrylate in the span of a minute or two, Tyler said.

Explore further: Environmentally safer catalyst proves more active in hydrogen production

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not rated yet Aug 21, 2012
According to Wikipedia it "can be further neutralized with ammonia to form ammonium sulfate, a valuable fertilizer."

I wonder if its "extremely energy intensive" disposal that consumes 2 percent of the energy used in Texas annually is used to create that extra ammonia.

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