Navigation Links
Breakthrough could lead to cheaper, more sustainable chemical production
Date:3/21/2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] A key advance, newly reported by chemists from Brown and Yale Universities, could lead to a cheaper and more sustainable way to make acrylate, an important commodity chemical used to make materials from polyester fabrics to diapers.

Chemical companies churn out billions of tons of acrylate each year, usually by heating propylene, a compound derived from crude oil. "What we're interested in is enhancing both the economics and the sustainability of how acrylate is made," said Wesley Bernskoetter, assistant professor of chemistry at Brown, who led the research. "Right now, everything that goes into making it is from relatively expensive, nonrenewable carbon sources."

Since the 1980s researchers have been looking into the possibility of making acrylate by combining carbon dioxide with a gas called ethylene in the presence of nickel and other metal catalysts. CO2 is essentially free and something the planet currently has in overabundance. Ethylene is cheaper than propylene and can be made from plant biomass.

There has been a persistent obstacle to the approach, however. Instead of forming the acrylate molecule, CO2 and ethylene tend to form a precursor molecule with a five-membered ring made of oxygen, nickel, and three carbon atoms. In order to finish the conversion to acrylate, that ring needs to be cracked open to allow the formation of a carbon-carbon double bond, a process called elimination.

That step had proved elusive. But the research by Bernskoetter and his colleagues, published in the journal Organometallics, shows that a class of chemicals called Lewis acids can easily break open that five-membered ring, allowing the molecule to eliminate and form acrylate.

Lewis acids are basically electron acceptors. In this case, the acid steals away electrons that make up the bond between nickel and oxygen in the ring. That weakens the bond and opens the ring.

"We thought that if we could find a way to cut the ring chemically, then we would be able to eliminate very quickly and form acrylate," Bernskoetter said. "And that turns out to be true."

He calls the finding an "enabling technology" that could eventually be incorporated in a full catalytic process for making acrylate on a mass scale. "We can now basically do all the steps required," he said.

From here, the team needs to tweak the strength of the Lewis acid used. To prove the concept, they used the strongest acid that was easily available, one derived from boron. But that acid is too strong to use in a repeatable catalytic process because it bonds too strongly to the acrylate product to allow additional reactions with the nickel catalyst.

"In developing and testing the idea, we hit it with the biggest hammer we could," Bernskoetter said. "So what we have to do now is dial back and find one that makes it more practical."

There's quite a spectrum of Lewis acid strengths, so Bernskoetter is confident that there's one that will work. "We think it's possible," he said. "Organic chemists do this kind of reaction with Lewis acids all the time."

The ongoing research is part of a collaboration between Brown and Yale supported by the National Science Foundation's Centers for Chemical Innovation program. The work is aimed at activating CO2 for use in making all kinds of commodity chemicals, and acrylate is a good place to start.

"It's around a $2 billion-a-year industry," Bernskoetter said. "If we can find a way to make acrylate more cheaply, we think the industry will be interested."


'/>"/>

Contact: Kevin Stacey
kevin_stacey@brown.edu
401-863-3766
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Nottingham technology in heart development breakthrough
2. Flu breakthrough: New drug developed to combat flu pandemic
3. Breakthrough study opens door to broader biomedical applications for Raman spectroscopy
4. Explosive breakthrough in research on molecular recognition
5. Stem cell breakthrough could lead to new bone repair therapies on nanoscale surfaces
6. A Spanish breakthrough allows the electroporation of cell cultures for less than 1 Euro
7. Recent breakthroughs in cocoa flavanol research discussed by European research consortium and expert panel
8. Breakthrough: How salt stops plant growth
9. Genetic sequencing breakthrough to aid treatment for congenital hyperinsulinism
10. Plant organ development breakthrough
11. USDA scientists and cooperators sequence the wheat genome in breakthrough for global food security
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/15/2016)... CHICAGO , April 15, 2016  A ... companies make more accurate underwriting decisions in a ... offering timely, competitively priced and high-value life insurance ... health screenings. With Force Diagnostics, rapid ... and lifestyle data readings (blood pressure, weight, pulse, ...
(Date:4/14/2016)... 2016 BioCatch ™, the ... announced the appointment of Eyal Goldwerger as ... Goldwerger,s leadership appointment comes at a time of ... deployment of its platform at several of the world,s ... discerns unique cognitive and physiological factors, is a winner ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... RATON, Florida , March 31, 2016 ... LEGX ) ("LegacyXChange" or the "Company") ... for potential users of its soon to be launched ... video ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyTLBzmZogV1y2D6bDkBX5g ) will also provide ... the use of DNA technology to an industry that ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... While the majority of commercial spectrophotometers and fluorometers use the z-dimension of 8.5 ... end machines that use the more unconventional z-dimension of 20mm. Z-dimension or ... the cuvette holder. , FireflySci has developed several Agilent flow cell product lines ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016   Boston Biomedical , ... compounds designed to target cancer stemness pathways, announced ... granted Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. Food ... gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. Napabucasin ... to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by targeting STAT3, ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... Plate® YM (Yeast and Mold) microbial test has received AOAC Research Institute approval ... of microbial tests introduced last year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Supplyframe, the Industry Network ... Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., the Design Lab’s mission is ... projects are designed, built and brought to market. , The Design Lab is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: