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 The stacked colour sensor
16.11.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

nachricht Counterfeits and product piracy can be prevented by security features, such as printed 3-D microstructures
16.11.2017 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>