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Potential game changer for the future of sustainable materials

Graphical abstraction. Credit: DOI: 10.1021 / acsmacrolett.1c00284

Over the last 100 years, plastics and polymers have changed the way the world operates, from airplanes and automobiles to computers and mobile phones. Almost all of these are composed of fossil fuel-based compounds. The discovery of a new plastic from pine sap by a Florida State University research team could be a game changer for new sustainable materials.


Justin Kennemer, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry who is a principal investigator in research detailing new discoveries, said this is an important step in the right direction for new plastics and could lead to some new materials. He said it was a gateway discovery.

“What we now know is that this glassy, ​​thermally stable plastic can be melted and molded at high temperatures and cooled at ambient temperatures to make hard plastics,” Kennemer said. Mr. says. “One of our next goals is to learn some of the mechanical properties of these polymers, but because this material has many structural features that reflect the plastics we use every day. Many uses are expected. ”

Team findings published in journal ACS macro letter..

“99% of today’s plastics are made from finite fossil fuels with increasing demand and limited geographical availability,” he said. “Produce materials from Renewable resourcesPine sap, which can be harvested without killing trees, is a remarkable endeavor. ”

Alphapinene, the most abundant molecule produced from pine sap, is notorious for being difficult to convert to plastic, so its current use is limited. Primarily found in turpentine-based cleaners and solvents. Mark Yarolimek, PhD student at Florida State University polymer The chemistry that led the study first synthetically modified alpha pinene to make the compound known as delta pinene.

“I went through a series of chemical reactions, multiple purifications, and some trial and error, and eventually succeeded in converting it to delta pinene,” he said. “Once we got the purified liquid delta pinene, we converted it to plastic polydelta pinene in a single final chemical reaction.”

Yarolimek and Heather Bookbinder, who were undergraduate researchers in the project before earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology in 2020, performed a variety of “polymerizations” (chemical reactions that convert small liquid molecules into solid polymers). I tested how effective this is. The molecule was becoming plastic.

Credits: Florida State University

These tests measure how much delta pinen is converted to plastic in a single reaction, how well researchers can control molecular growth, and how changes in conditions affect the material. Was included to do. They also characterized the various material properties of plastics, such as the temperature at which the polymer melts and the heat it can withstand before it decomposes, and investigated the molecular structure of the material.

Brianna Coia, a graduate researcher at Kennemur Group, also analyzed deltapinen to see if it had the appropriate thermodynamic properties to undergo polymerization. Coia used resources from the FSU Research Computing Center to perform density functional theory calculations, and her calculations were in good agreement with the experimental results of Yarolimek and Bookbinder.

Yarolimek said the conversion of such biomass molecules into such new high performance plastics is essential to the continuation of our lives. The team has already worked with the FSU Commercialization Department to apply for a patent for the material it finds.

“Instead of returning to the 18th century when oil runs out, the switch to bio-based plastics allows us to move further forward in what comes next,” he said.

Making new bio-based plastics is only half the conversation — the other involves the ultimate fate of plastics, Kennemer said. For this high performance material, it is not desirable to have a short shelf life due to its biodegradability, but there is still a need for a way to recycle it. It may mean developing a degradation process through chemical stimuli.

“Our research is invested in both. We make new materials, but we are also investigating their chemical recyclability,” he said. “We made this new plastic, but this is just the beginning, and we also need to learn how to remake it. plastic We are planning to start the investigation. ”

Kennemer said his role was to guide their efforts, but his student researchers deserve the credit of this discovery.

“Being part of this research team was probably one of the most educational and interesting experiences I had while at FSU,” Bookbinder said. “In my opinion, hands-on experience is the most attractive way to learn and has long-term benefits. I will talk about my role in research and the rest of my life.”


Scientists make plastic from Christmas trees


For more information:
Mark R. Yarolimek et al, Ring-opening metathesis polymerization of delta-pinene: a well-defined polyolefin from pine sap, ACS macro letter (2021). DOI: 10.1021 / acsmacrolett.1c00284

Quote: Pine Sap Based Plastics: A Potential Game Changer for the Future of Sustainable Materials (July 28, 2021) https: //phys.org/news/2021-07-sapbased-plastic- Obtained from potential-gamechanger-future on July 28, 2021. html

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Potential game changer for the future of sustainable materials

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