A greener, more sustainable source of ingredients for widely used plastics

August 7, 2013
A greener, more sustainable source of ingredients for widely used plastics

A new process can convert a wide variety of vegetable and animal fats and oils—ranging from lard to waste cooking oil—into a key ingredient for making plastics that currently comes from petroleum, scientists say. Their report on the first-of-its-kind process appears in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Douglas Neckers and Maria Muro-Small explain that many of the plastics found in hundreds of everyday products begin with a group of chemical raw materials termed olefins that come from petroleum. They include ethylene, propylene and butadiene, which are building blocks for familiar plastics like polyethylene, polyester, polyvinyl chloride and polystyrene. The scientists sought a more sustainable alternative source of olefins.

Their report describes use of "UV-C" light—used in sanitizing wands to kill bacteria and viruses around the house—to change lard, tallow, olive oil, canola oil and waste canola into olefins. Neckers and Muro-Small say that this is the first report on use of this photochemical process to make olefins.

Explore further: Progress in using ethanol to make key raw material now produced from oil

More information: "A Green Route to Petroleum Feedstocks: Photochemistry of Fats and Oils" ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/sc400135y

Abstract
We demonstrate that it is possible to generate long chain olefins from different fat sources, i.e., animal fat, vegetable oils/fats, and waste cooking oil. Our results show that, independent of the source of fat, irradiation using UV–C light produces 1-tetradecene, 1-hexadecene, 1,7-hexadecadiene, and 1,7,10-hexadecatriene. Fats undergo transesterification with primary alcohols rendering the corresponding esters. These, following irradiation, produce the olefins described, in addition to lower molecular weight esters.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Zika virus protein mapped to speed search for cure

March 27, 2017

A study published today shows how Indiana University scientists are speeding the path to new treatments for the Zika virus, an infectious disease linked to birth defects in infants in South and Central America and the United ...

Researchers link orphan receptor to opioid-induced itching

March 27, 2017

Opioids have long been an important tool in the world of pain management, but the side effects of these drugs - from addiction and respiratory failure to severe itching and dizziness, can be overwhelming. Scientists have ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.