289643 Renewable Chemicals: Opportunities and Challenges
The only sustainable option for producing chemicals in the long term is plant-based biomass. New chemistries and sustainable catalytic technologies are needed to produce chemical intermediates from plant-based feedstocks such as sugars, sugar alcohols and vegetable oils. This grand challenge provides fresh opportunities for chemists and chemical engineers to implement biorefineries that co-produce fuels and chemicals. The challenge is not different from what the petroleum industry faced nearly a century ago and has the potential to spur a new manufacturing sector in agro-based economies such as the United States and India. In recent years, there has been increased interest to source many megaton chemical intermediates (such as ethylene oxide, linear aldehydes and dicarboxylic acids including terephthalic acid) from biomass-derived feedstocks. Existing technologies for these commodity chemicals are waste generating and energy-intensive. Hence, to preserve the “green” potential of the renewable feedstocks, new sustainable conversion technologies are needed.
This talk will present examples of new, sustainable technology concepts for some of the aforementioned chemical intermediates. Integrated R&D approaches that fully exploit the synergies between catalyst design, tunable reaction media (such as supercritical fluids, gas-expanded liquids, ionic liquids) and novel reactor concepts (integrating reaction and separation) to develop such alternate technologies will be presented. The significant role of quantitative sustainability analyses in guiding the development of these processes toward commercialization will also be discussed.
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