WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2013 — The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series highlights a first-of-its-kind process that can convert vegetable and animal fats and oils into a key ingredient for plastics. The development could lead to a more sustainable source of the ingredient, which currently comes from petroleum.
Based on a report by Douglas Neckers, Ph.D., and Maria Muro-Small in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, the new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from www.acs.org/globalchallenges.
Neckers explains that many of the plastics found in hundreds of everyday products begin with a group of chemical raw materials termed olefins. Petroleum is a common source of olefins, which include ethylene, propylene and butadiene. These are the building blocks for familiar plastics like polyethylene, polyester, polyvinyl chloride and polystyrene. The scientists sought a more sustainable alternative source of olefins.
Their report describes use of “UV-C” light to change lard, tallow, olive oil, canola oil and waste canola cooking oil into olefins. Neckers says that this is the first report on use of this photochemical process to make olefins.
Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry and thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water, developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society, preserving the environment and ensuring a sustainable future for our children and improving human health.