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Brookhaven & DuPont develop new catalysts to convert renewable feedstocks to useful industrial materials

DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory : 29 September, 2004  (Technical Article)
The U.S. Department of Energy
“This is an early step in a long-term goal to develop new ways to make chemicals and fibers,” said Morris Bullock, Brookhaven’s principal researcher in the project.

Industrial chemicals and fibers like nylon are traditionally derived from petroleum-based feedstocks, which are nonrenewable and add atmospheric carbon dioxide to the environment. In contrast, biomass-based feedstocks are mainly derived from plants. At a time when oil prices continue to increase, these plant-based products may offer an economically advantageous, energy-saving, environmentally friendly alternative for DuPont and other chemical and synthetic-fiber manufacturers.

Brookhaven National Laboratory's Morris Bullock and Prasenjit Ghosh prepare for an experiment to test a new class of catalysts that they developed with DuPont for converting renewable feedstocks to useful industrial materials.

The Brookhaven/DuPont collaboration used a ruthenium-based catalyst to accelerate the removal of oxygen from diols, organic compounds commonly found in plants that contain compounds of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. Selective removal of oxygen converts diols into alcohols, which are used for making industrial materials.

The researchers hope to use this deoxygenation method on more complex compounds such as glucose for converting organic plant material into chemicals for application in large-scale industrial processes.

Dupont’s goal is to derive 25 percent of its revenues in 2010 from renewable raw materials, like carbohydrates. Paul Fagan, principal researcher on the project at DuPont, said, “This research is a starting point to develop improved industrially important catalysts for key transformations of biomolecules. We realize there is much more work to be done on these catalysts, but this is the kind of chemistry that will help DuPont meet its goal.”

Research is continuing to improve the activity of the new catalysts so that they become attractive for industrial use. Two patent applications have been filed on the catalysts.
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