(FOX 9) - A new technology could bridge the gap between renewable ingredients like trees and corn, and key chemicals like acrylic acid and acrylates used in common household products, according to University of Minnesota researchers.
A team led by University of Minnesota researchers has announced the invention of a new catalyst technology that converts renewable materials into the needed chemicals through an efficient process, resulting in lower manufacturing costs in the process, according to the announcement.
"Our new catalyst formulation discovery achieves the highest yield to date of acrylic acid from lactic acid," said Paul Dauenhauer, a professor at the U of M College of Science and Engineering, in a statement. "We benchmarked the performance of our new catalyst to all prior catalysts, and the performance far exceeds previous examples."
Historically made from fossil fuels, acrylic acid and associated acrylates are used in everyday items from paints and coatings, to sticky adhesives and absorbent material used in diapers.
Increasingly the corn industry has been expanding beyond food and livestock feed to manufacturing chemicals for products. One such corn-derived chemical can be sustainable lactic acid, according to the announcement.
"This is a wonderful example of how addressing important basic research questions that are at the heart of fundamental catalysis can lead to innovative new processes that have true technological promise," said Marc Hillmyer, director of the Center for Sustainable Polymers and a professor in the College of Science and Engineering. "A grand challenge in the Center for Sustainable Polymers is the efficient and sustainable conversion of biomass to polymer ingredients, and this work represents a groundbreaking solution to that challenge that will have lasting impact."