Biopolymers to the Rescue

 
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Students learn to identify that cellulose contains the basic carbon-chain structures needed to build petrochemicals and discuss its potential as a raw material

An alternative source of ethene?

Large amounts of cellulose are left over from agricultural processes; today, it is usually burnt, buried, or composted.

However, cellulose contains the basic carbon-chain structures which are needed to build petrochemicals and is a potential source of industrial feedstocks. As fossil fuel resources decline and the economic and environmental costs involved in transporting and processing this cellulose waste become competitive with processing fossil fuels, it is likely to become the source of many of the materials we now derive from petroleum.

One of the big advantages for cellulose is that it already has plenty of carbon-carbon bonds in it. The reason this is important is that in industrial processes (and in the lab) it is much easier to add some other functionality (say a chloro group) to an existing chain than it is to add another carbon-carbon group onto the chain to make it longer.