UMass Amherst Chemical Engineers Discover ‘Ultraselective’ Process to Make Valuable Chemical from Biomass
Chemical engineering researchers Wei Fan, Paul Dauenhauer and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report this week that they’ve discovered a new chemical process to make p-xylene, an important ingredient of common plastics, at 90 percent yield from lignocellulosic biomass, the highest yield achieved to date. Details are in the current issue of Green Chemistry.
As Dauenhauer explains, the chemical industry currently produces p-xylene from more expensive petroleum, while the new process will make the same chemical from lower-cost, renewable biomass. He and colleagues call the process “ultraselective” because of its ability to achieve 90 percent selectivity for the desired product. “The biomass-derived p-xylene can be mixed with petroleum-based plastics, and consumers will not be able to tell the difference. But manufacturers and chemical companies will be able to operate more sustainably and at lower cost in the future because of this discovery,” he adds.