Northwestern University chemists used light and water to convert acetylene into ethylene, key ingredient in plastics.
Ethylene is a precursor to 50-60% of all plastics worldwide
Before ethylene can be converted into plastic, contaminants must be removed
Removing or converting contaminants requires high temperatures and pressures, flammable hydrogen and expensive metals
Chemists replaced these conditions with only water and visible light to create a new, environmentally friendly process
While this conversion typically requires high temperatures and pressures, flammable hydrogen and expensive metals to drive the reaction, Northwestern’s photosynthesis-like process is much less expensive and less energy intensive. Not only is the new process environmentally friendly, it also works incredibly well — successfully converting nearly 100% of acetylene into ethylene.
In industry, this method requires energy-intensive processes that need high temperatures, an external feed of flammable hydrogen gas and materials containing noble metals, which are expensive and difficult to obtain. Our new strategy solves all these issues at once.” – Francesca Arcudi, co-first author of the study
This paper is a result of a collaboration between Professors Emily Weiss and Samuel I. Stupp and their joint effort as part of the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES) at Northwestern. Weiss is the paper’s corresponding author. Francesca Arcudi is a postdoctoral researcher in Weiss’ laboratory. Luka Ðordevic is a postdoctoral fellow in Stupp’s laboratory.
Source: North Western University