New catalyst paves way for bio-based plastics, chemicals

December 11, 2015 by Tina Hilding

Washington State University researchers have developed a catalyst that easily converts bio-based ethanol to a widely used industrial chemical, paving the way for more environmentally friendly, bio-based plastics and products.

The researchers have published a paper online describing the catalyst in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and have been granted a U.S. patent.

The industry is interested in moving away from fossil fuels to bio-based products to reduce environmental impacts and to meet new regulations for sustainability, said Yong Wang, Voiland Distinguished Professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

The catalyst works on bio-based ethanol to create isobutene used in plastics and other products.

The industry has traditionally made a widely used chemical called isobutene - used in everything from plastic soda bottles to rubber tires - by superheating crude oil. But in collaboration with the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Company, Wang and his colleagues developed a catalyst to convert bio-based ethanol, which is made from corn or other biomass, to isobutene in one easy production step.

The researchers examined the costs and lifetime of their catalyst to determine its practicality for the marketplace and determined that it could be used for other closely related feedstocks. They also discovered just how their works, knowledge that could be used to design more efficient catalysts for a wide range of applications.

The catalyst works on bio-based ethanol to create isobutene used in plastics and other products.

In addition to ADM, the work was supported by a grant from the Department of Energy (DE-AC05-RL01830, FWP-47319).

"This is one example that shows the benefits of closely linking the practical and fundamental aspects of research to develop scalable and commercially practical catalysts for applications of importance to industries,'' said Wang, who holds a joint appointment in the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Explore further: A new catalyst for ethanol made from biomass

More information: Junming Sun et al. Key Roles of Lewis Acid-base Pairs on ZnxZryOz in Direct Ethanol/Acetone to Isobutene Conversion, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2015). DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b07401

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7 comments

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MR166
not rated yet Dec 12, 2015
Please show me just one major farm that runs entirely on corn ethanol that it produces! You can't because corn based ethanol takes more fossil fuel to produce than the energy that it replaces. Thus, producing plastics from ethanol, as the article and picture implies does not reduce CO2 emissions by one iota.
MR166
1 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2015
Just how many bogus claims are the supporters of biofules willing to accept before they finally admit the truth about their harmful effects on the planet?
TechnoCreed
5 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2015
Please show me just one major farm that runs entirely on corn ethanol that it produces! You can't because corn based ethanol takes more fossil fuel to produce than the energy that it replaces. Thus, producing plastics from ethanol, as the article and picture implies does not reduce CO2 emissions by one iota.

Here is what a report from rhe USDA released in 2010 says: "The ratio is about 2.3 BTU of ethanol for 1 BTU
of energy inputs, when a portion of total energy input is allocated to byproduct and fossil
fuel is used for processing energy. The ratio is somewhat higher for some firms that are
partially substituting biomass energy in processing energy." http://www.usda.g...inal.pdf
Edenlegaia
not rated yet Dec 12, 2015
Please show me just one major farm that runs entirely on corn ethanol that it produces! You can't because corn based ethanol takes more fossil fuel to produce than the energy that it replaces. Thus, producing plastics from ethanol, as the article and picture implies does not reduce CO2 emissions by one iota.


I saw no mention of C02 emissions. Wasn't it about easier and faster biodegradation?
MR166
not rated yet Dec 12, 2015
""The ratio is about 2.3 BTU of ethanol for 1 BTU
of energy inputs, when a portion of total energy input is allocated to byproduct and fossil
fuel is used for processing energy."

Not according to Wiki

https://en.wikipe..._balance

A ratio of 1.3 is more like it.
Captain Stumpy
4.3 / 5 (4) Dec 12, 2015
Not according to Wiki
@mr
Wiki also specifically stated
Over the years, however, many reports have been produced with contradicting energy balance estimates
so, it would mean that, even on Wiki, you could get conflicting information

therefore, source material would be a far better read than wiki, as wiki might not be updated

i would say that the links in wiki would all have to be researched first, and then determine whether or not the studies with conflicting information are all using the same protocols and proceed from there

i would also say that it is far more likely that the original source material provided by Techno would be a better starting point than just the wiki page

perhaps you should quote the specific source on the wiki page that indicates the source of the "1.3" result and compare it with the timing and publication of the 2011 report from Techno?

i would be interested in seeing what you find, if you would post it here
Lex Talonis
not rated yet Dec 13, 2015
I thought that the whole of the biomass, not only from fermenting the corn starch, but also the bagass (???) or the remainder - the whole corn plant, can be now used to create ethyl alcohol from cellulose.

Not sure of the ratio, but the ratio of energy output to input, should now be way higher.

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