Thursday, February 8, 2018

Coming soon? PET plastic from corncobs

A team at University of Wisconsin at Madison has come up with a process to make PET plastic (think water bottles, Coke bottles, polyester fabrics) out of renewable materials, including sugar and corncobs. The feedstock only costs about 3% more than the fossil fuel version.

The new method solves three problems for plastics production, says University of Wisconsin chemical engineer Ali Hussain Motagamwala, a co-author of the paper. First, it uses a renewable carbon source instead of fossil fuels. Second, previous attempts to make FDCA from renewables required using corrosive acids, and therefore expensive reactors, which aren’t needed in the new approach. Finally, scientists can use the end product, FDCA, as a catalyst in the reaction and recycle the GVL solvent, which lowers the cost and uses less energy than current methods. “It makes the process much more green,” he says.

If we stopped feeding corn to animals, and cut back on corn syrup in our foods, this could make a dent in the market. But more research is needed.

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