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Developing Plastics From Corn

NSF Award:

Renewable Resource Polymers: Catalyst Design and Materials Development  (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities)

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University of Minnesota-Twin Cities researchers have developed a catalyst system that selectively converts corn-based building blocks to plastics. They also produced a type of sophisticated polymer from corn-based building blocks and mint plants.

Studies show that such triblock copolymers can act as rubber-like materials for use in manufacturing processes such as injection molding.

Polymeric materials are ubiquitous, accounting for more than $350 billion in U.S. economic activity annually. Nearly all polymers are derived from limited fossil reserves and present environmental challenges during production and/or disposal. Designing ways to convert plant-derived chemical compounds into useful polymeric materials is important for developing a sustainable polymer synthesis technology.

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  • shucked corn ears, close up
  • schematic
  • schematic
Researchers have developed a catalyst system that selectively converts corn-based building blocks to plastics.
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Researchers in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota have developed ways of converting renewable, plant-derived monomers such as (-)-menthone and D,L-lactide to useful polymers.
William B. Tolman
The conversion of monomers derived from plants to polymeric materials for a variety of applications represents an important sustainable route for future technological development.
William B. Tolman

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