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 Complementing conventional antibiotics
24.05.2018 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When corals eat plastics

24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Surgery involving ultrasound energy found to treat high blood pressure

24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering

First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR

24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>