Painting with corn
Engineers from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, have developed a new chemical process allowing for renewable acrylic chemicals to be manufactured using corn.
Credit: U.S. National Science Foundation
For the last century, acrylic chemicals have been used to make paint, cosmetics, and even your soft contact lenses. But what if they were made of bio renewable material instead of fossil fuels? We'll explore the future of renewable acrylic chemicals in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."
The global market for acrylic acid was valued by some analysts at over 14 billion dollars in 2022 and is expected to continue to grow. Acrylates have uses in everyday items such as adhesives, the superabsorbent materials used in diapers, and soda bottles.
Using tools at the NSF supported Center for Sustainable Polymers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, engineering and materials science researchers are working to transform how plastics are made and have developed a new chemical process that starts with corn instead of fossil fuels.
This formulation converts lactic acid-based chemicals derived from corn into acrylic acid and acrylates with a substantially higher performance than previous catalyst examples. This technology is highly efficient, reducing byproduct waste and substantially reducing manufacturing costs, the first time a bio renewable process has beaten fossil fuels in both areas.
This technology has already been licensed by a startup company. They are further developing this technology, pointing toward a commercial future and a wide range of more environmentally friendly products.
To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast.
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.
Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation.
Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.