Catalyzing A Path Towards ‘Greener’ Plastics

Manganese dioxide crystals are ideal catalysts for synthesizing renewable polymers, say researchers from Japan.

AsianScientist (Jan. 23, 2019) – Scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), Japan, have developed a catalyst for fabricating plastics from renewable sources. They reported their findings in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Many of today’s plastics are manufactured using non-renewable fossil resources, including coal and natural gas. In recent years, 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) has emerged as an attractive renewable raw material that can be used to create polyethylene furanoate, a material with many applications.

FDCA is typically obtained by oxidizing 5-hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF), a compound that can be synthesized from cellulose. However, the oxidation reactions require catalysts that contain expensive precious metals.

In the present study, researchers led by Associate Professor Keigo Kamata and Professor Michikazu Hara of Tokyo Tech used manganese dioxide (MnO2) crystals instead of precious metals as oxidizing catalysts. They first determined which MnO2 crystal structure would have the best catalytic activity using computational analyses.

They found that β-MnO2 was the most promising candidate structure and reported that the material itself was very stable, even after being used for oxidation reactions on HMF. Going further, the team proposed a new synthesis method to yield highly pure β-MnO2 with a large surface area in order to improve the FDCA yield and accelerate the oxidation process.

“The synthesis of high-surface-area β-MnO2 is a promising strategy for the highly efficient oxidation of HMF,” said Kamata.

“Further functionalization of β-MnO2 will open up a new avenue for the development of highly efficient catalysts for the oxidation of various biomass-derived compounds,” Hara concluded.

The article can be found at: Hayashi et al. (2019) Effect of MnO2 Crystal Structure on Aerobic Oxidation of 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural to 2,5-Furandicarboxylic Acid.


Source: Tokyo Institute of Technology; Photo: Pexels.
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