Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Iowa State chemists discover method to create high-value chemicals from biomass

03.09.2010
Iowa State University researchers have found a way to produce high-value chemicals such as ethylene glycol and propylene glycol from biomass rather than petroleum sources.

Walter Trahanovsky, an Iowa State professor of chemistry who likes to write out the chemical structures of compounds when he talks about his science, was looking to produce sugar derivatives from cellulose and other forms of biomass using high-temperature chemistry. And so he and members of his research group studied the reactions of cellulosic materials in alcohols at high temperatures and pressures.

They analyzed the products of the reactions using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Early experiments produced the expected sugar derivatives. Additional work, however, clearly revealed significant yields of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol.

"It was a real surprise," Trahanovsky said. "These products were unexpected, so we never looked for them. But they were always there."

Uses for ethylene glycol include auto antifreeze, polyester fabrics and plastic bottles. Propylene glycol has many uses, including as a food additive, a solvent in pharmaceuticals, a moisturizer in cosmetics and as a coolant in liquid cooling systems.

Conversion of biomass to fuels and other chemicals can require strong acids or other harsh and expensive compounds. These processes also generate chemical wastes that have to be collected for safe disposal.

The Iowa State researchers say they have found a technology that is simpler yet effective and also better for the environment.

"There is potential here," said Trahanovsky. "It's not a wild dream to think this could be developed into a practical process."

The biomass conversion process is based on the chemistry of supercritical fluids, fluids that are heated under pressure until their liquid and gas phases merge. In this case, Trahanovsky said the key results are significant yields of ethylene glycol, propylene glycol and other chemicals with low molecular weights. He said the process also produces alkyl glucosides and levoglucosan that can be converted into glucose for ethanol production or other uses.

All this happens without the use of any expensive reagents such as acids, enzymes, catalysts or hydrogen gas, Trahanovsky said. The process even works when there are impurities in the biomass.

The Iowa State University Research Foundation Inc. has filed for a patent of the technology.

The research has been supported by grants from the Iowa Energy Center. Other Iowa State researchers who have contributed to the project include Ronald Holtan, a postdoctoral research associate in chemistry; Norm Olson, the project manager of the Iowa Energy Center's BECON facility near Nevada; Joseph Marshall, a former graduate student; and Alyse Hurd and Kyle Quasdorf, former undergraduate students.

Trahanovsky said the research team is still working to develop and improve the conversion technology.

And he does think the technology could be useful to industry.

"The starting materials for this are cheap," Trahanovsky said. "And the products are reasonably high-value chemicals."

Walter Trahanovsky | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation
24.05.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Carcinogenic soot particles from GDI engines
24.05.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>