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Renewable Plastic Precursor Could Grow Cellulosic Biofuel Industry
by Krista Eastman (University of Wisconsin-Madison) A team of chemical and biological engineers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has found a way to produce from biomass a valuable compound used in plastic production that they estimate could lower the cost of ethanol produced from plant material by more than two dollars per gallon.
The development is the latest in an ongoing effort at UW–Madison to create commodity chemicals currently derived from petroleum out of biomass. These bio-derived chemicals could serve as high value co-products of the biofuels manufacturing process, improving the economics of the cellulosic bio-refinery.
“This breakthrough shows how biomass-derived commodity chemicals can economically be used to replace petroleum-derived products,” says George Huber
, a UW–Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering and affiliate of the Wisconsin Energy Institute
. “It also shows how we might improve the rural economies in which biomass grows.”
In their paper published recently by the journal ChemSusChem, Huber and collaborators report a new chemical pathway used to produce 1,5-pentanediol, a plastic precursor primarily used to make polyurethanes and polyester plastics. The group’s highly efficient approach is six times cheaper than a previously reported method, and represents the first economically viable way of producing 1,5-pentanediol from biomass.
“In our approach, we use the oxygen already inherent in the biomass to produce high value oxygenated commodity chemicals that can be used to make performance polymer materials like polyurethanes and polyesters,” says Huber. READ MORE