Scientists at Queen's University Belfast have discovered a new eco-friendly way of dissolving wood using ionic liquids that may help its transformation into popular products such as bio fuels, textiles, clothes and paper. Dr Héctor Rodríguez and Professor Robin Rogers from the University's ... more
Queen's scientists discover eco-friendly wood dissolution
Scientists at Queen's University Belfast have discovered a new eco-friendly way of dissolving wood using ionic liquids that may help its transformation into popular products such as bio fuels, textiles, clothes and paper.
Dr Héctor Rodríguez and Professor Robin Rogers from the University's School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering worked along with The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, to come up with a more cost and energy efficient way of processing wood.
Their solution, which is reported in the journal Green Chemistry, may see a new sustainable future for industry based on bio-renewable resources.
At present wood is broken down mainly by the Kraft pulping process, which originates from the 19th century and uses a wasteful technology relying on polluting chemicals.
The key reason for tolerating this method is that it is very difficult to break down and separate the different elements of wood. Until now any alternatives to the process have presented similar problems.
The Queen's researchers found that chips of both softwood and hardwood dissolved completely in ionic liquid and only mild conditions of temperature and pressure were needed. By controlled addition of water and a water-acetone mixture, the dissolved wood was partially separated into a cellulose-rich material and pure lignin.
This process is much more environmentally-friendly than the current method as it uses less heat and pressure and produces very low toxicity while remaining biodegradable.
Professor Robin Rogers said: "This is a very important discovery because cellulose and lignin have a wide variety of uses. Cellulose can be used to make products such as paper, biofuels, cotton and linen, as well as many other commodity materials and chemicals.
"Lignin can be used to create performance additives in various applications, such as strengthening cars and airplanes with a fraction of the weight of conventional reinforcement materials. It is also a source of other chemicals which are mainly obtained from petroleum-based resources."
Dr Héctor Rodríguez said: "The discovery is a significant step towards the development of the biorefinery concept, where biomass is transformed to produce a wide variety of chemicals. Eventually, this may open a door to a truly sustainable chemical industry based on bio-renewable resources."
The approaches that the scientists are considering for the future include the addition of eco-friendly additives to the ionic liquid system or the use of catalysts.
The researchers are hoping to eventually achieve better dissolution under even softer conditions and are also trying to achieve complete separation of the different elements in one single step.
Both teams are also focusing on biomasses which are rich in essential oils and can later be used in processes such as the manufacture of fragrances.
BASF and the University of Alabama (UoA) have been jointly awarded the renowned LES (Licensing Executive Society) 2006 Deals of Distinction Award for the Chemical, Energy and Materials Industry Sector. UoA has granted exclusive patent licenses to BASF for the use of ionic liquids in conjunc ... more
Sunbathers could soon tell when to take shelter in the shade thanks to an early warning sunburn indicator, developed by Queen's University Belfast.Researchers at Queen's have developed a strip of plastic, containing 'smart' ink, which turns colourless from an initial blue colour just before ... more
Dr. Beauchemin and student Lily Huang have developed a cutting-edge technique to identify human hair. Their test is quicker than DNA analysis techniques currently used by law enforcement. Early sample testing at Queen's produced a 100 per cent success rate. "My first paper and foray into fo ... more
Global chemical companies could release at least one billion Euro in cash flow if they increase their sustainability performance. The claim has been made following an international study which assessed the sustainability performance of nine global chemical companies in monetary terms. Entit ... more
- 1Schleicher & Schuell has been purchased by Whatman plc
- 2Mummified bodies reveal how tuberculosis ravaged the heart of 18th century Europe
- 3Philips enters into collaboration with Janssen to develop new handheld blood test
- 4Rapid and efficient DNA chip technology for testing 14 major types of food borne pathogens
- 5Goodbye to sunburn thanks to Queen's sunburn indicator
- 6Sharper nanoscopy
- 7Pall Corporation Acquires BioSMB Technology from Tarpon Biosystems
- 8Mettler-Toledo's TDL Analyzers Receive Award from Frost & Sullivan for Competitive Strategy Innovation & Leadership
- 9Bio-marker set forms the basis for new blood test to detect colorectal cancer
- 10Inspecting water quality with Raman spectroscopy