WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 — The American Chemical Society (ACS) today released a new episode in its award-winning "Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions" podcast series showcasing a discovery that could mean greener and more environmentally friendly production of a key ingredient used to make everything from paint to diapers.
The podcast and accompanying website focus on a new way to make acrylic acid, a key industrial material that's usually produced from pricey and increasingly scarce petroleum. It involves development of a new catalyst that permits production of acrylic acid without using petroleum. The research appeared in the American Chemical Society's journal, ACS Catalysis.
Weijie Ji, Ph.D., Nanjing University in China, says that global demand for the colorless liquid totals about four million tons annually. Acrylic acid is typically made from propylene obtained from petroleum. With prices rising, manufacturers have been seeking alternative ways of making acrylic acid without buying propylene. One possibility involves making it from lactic acid. But current processes for using lactic acid are inefficient and consume large amounts of energy.
The scientists' potential solution is a new catalyst that can convert lactic acid into acrylic acid more efficiently," says Weijie. "We showed that the new catalyst can convert lactic acid to acrylic acid more selectively at lower temperatures. We are very excited about this finding and its potential benefits. The catalyst is not very complicated to prepare."