Read on
Synthetic rubber and plastics – used for manufacturing tires, toys and myriad other products – are produced from butadiene, a molecule traditionally made from petroleum or natural gas. But those manmade materials could get a lot greener soon, thanks to the ingenuity of a team of scientists from three U.S. research universities.
Editorial office / United States

The scientific team –- from the University of Delaware, the University of Minnesota and the University of Massachusetts – has invented a process to make butadiene from renewable sources like trees, grasses and corn.

Butadiene is the chief chemical component in a broad range of materials found throughout society. When this four-carbon molecule undergoes a chemical reaction to form long chains called polymers, styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) is formed, which is used to make abrasive-resistant automobile tires. When blended to make nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR), it becomes the key component in hoses, seals and the rubber gloves ubiquitous to medical settings.

Novel chemistry in three steps

The novel chemistry included a three-step process starting from biomass-derived sugars. Using technology developed within CCEI, the team converted sugars to a ring compound called furfural. In the second step, the team further processed furfural to another ring compound called tetrahydrofuran (THF). It was in the third step that the team found the breakthrough chemical manufacturing technology. Using a new catalyst called “phosphorous all-silica zeolite,” developed within the center, the team was able to convert THF to butadiene with high yield (greater than 95 percent).

Read the full article at University of Delaware.