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 Gelatine instead of forearm
19.04.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

nachricht Computers create recipe for two new magnetic materials
18.04.2017 | Duke 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: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>