A One-Step Process To Make ‘Green’ Plastics

An international team of scientists has developed a straightforward method to produce bio-based plastics.

AsianScientist (Apr. 29, 2019) – In a study published in the journal ACS Catalysis, researchers in Japan and the Netherlands have devised a one-stop method to produce plant-derived plastics.

Bio-based plastics are emerging as a next generation material and are expected to replace petroleum-derived plastics. A plant-derived polyester, called polyethylene furanoate (PEF), is a promising polymer derived from plants that can replace the current favorite of the plastic industry, polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

PEF has better physical, mechanical and thermal properties compared to PET. However, realizing large-scale PEF production is seriously hampered by the inefficient production of PEF monomers—called MFDC and HEFDC.

In the present study, researchers led by Associate Professor Kiyotaka Nakajima of Hokkaido University, Japan, in collaboration with colleagues in the Netherlands, have found a one-step process to synthesize MFDC and HEFDC at scale.

The researchers used a gold nanoparticle catalyst to convert 80-95 percent of a concentrated solution of biomass-derived substrate, known as (5-hydroxymethyl)furfural-acetal, into MFDC and HEFDC. They noted that this represents a significant advance over the current state of the art, overcoming an inherent limitation of the (5-hydroxymethyl)furfural-acetal oxidation reaction.

The researchers expect the new technique will not only improve the feasibility of commercial PEF production in the chemical industry, but also help advance the widespread use of bioplastics. Their findings also provide insight into the development of other bio-based chemical applications from various biomass-derived carbohydrates.

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2019) Effective Strategy for High-Yield Furan Dicarboxylate Production for Biobased Polyester Applications.


Source: Hokkaido University. Photo: Hokkaido University.
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