amigoro writes with a link to the Press Esc blog, discussing a possible replacement for crude oil in plastics, fuels, and other industrial uses. The post outlines findings to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Science. Essentially, researchers at the Institute for Interfacial Catalysis are attempting to process the sugars in plant matter into an oil-like compound, a daunting challenge. “Glucose, in plant starch and cellulose, is nature’s most abundant sugar. ‘But getting a commercially viable yield of HMF from glucose has been very challenging,’ Zhang said. ‘In addition to low yield until now, we always generate many different byproducts,’ including levulinic acid, making product purification expensive and uncompetitive with petroleum-based chemicals. Zhang, lead author and former post doc Haibo Zhao, and colleagues John Holladay and Heather Brown, all from PNNL, were able to coax HMF yields upward of 70 percent from glucose and nearly 90 percent from fructose while leaving only traces of acid impurities.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.