Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sweet and environmentally beneficial discovery: Plastics made from orange peel and a greenhouse gas

18.01.2005


A Cornell University research group has made a sweet and environmentally beneficial discovery -- how to make plastics from citrus fruits, such as oranges, and carbon dioxide.

In a paper published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (Sept. 2004), Geoffrey Coates, a Cornell professor of chemistry and chemical biology, and his graduate students Chris Byrne and Scott Allen describe a way to make polymers using limonene oxide and carbon dioxide, with the help of a novel "helper molecule" -- a catalyst developed in the researchers’ laboratory.

Limonene is a carbon-based compound produced in more than 300 plant species. In oranges it makes up about 95 percent of the oil in the peel. In industry, Coates explains, the orange peel oil is extracted for various uses, such as giving household cleaners their citrus scent. The oil can be oxidized to create limonene oxide. This is the reactive compound that Coates and his collaborators used as a building block.



The other building block they used was carbon dioxide (CO2), an atmospheric gas that has been rising steadily over the past century and a half -- due largely to the combustion of fossil fuels -- becoming an environmentally harmful greenhouse gas. By using their catalyst to combine the limonene oxide and CO2, the Coates group produced a novel polymer -- called polylimonene carbonate -- that has many of the characteristics of polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic currently used to make many disposable plastic products. "The polymer is a repeating unit, much like a strand of paper dolls. But instead of repeating dolls, the components alternate between limonene oxide and CO2 -- in the polymer," says Coates. Neither limonene oxide nor CO2 form polymers on their own, but when put together, a promising product is created.

"Almost every plastic out there, from the polyester in clothing to the plastics used for food packaging and electronics, goes back to the use of petroleum as a building block," Coates observes. "If you can get away from using oil and instead use readily abundant, renewable and cheap resources, then that’s something we need to investigate. What’s exciting about this work is that from completely renewable resources, we were able to make a plastic with very nice qualities."

The Coates research team is particularly interested in using CO2 as an alternative building block for polymers. Instead of being pumped into the atmosphere as a waste product, CO2 could be isolated for use in producing plastics, such as polylimonene carbonate.

The Coates laboratory comprises 18 chemists, about half of them striving to make recyclable and biodegradable materials out of cheap, readily available and environmentally friendly building blocks. "Today we use things once and throw them away because plastics are cheap and abundant. It won’t be like that in the future," says Coates. "At some point we will look back and say, ’Wow, remember when we would take plastic containers and just throw them away?’"

The research was supported by the Packard Foundation fellowship program, the National Science Foundation, the Cornell Center for Materials Research and the Cornell University Center for Biotechnology.

Reported and written by graduate student Sarah Davidson, a science writer intern with Cornell News Service.

David Brand | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cornell.edu
http://www.chem.cornell.edu/gc39

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen
24.03.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

nachricht Researchers make flexible glass for tiny medical devices
24.03.2017 | Brigham Young University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>