Machine Design

Fruity plastics may help reduce greenhouse gases

A Cornell University research group has made a sweet and environmentally beneficial discovery:

how to make plastics from citrus fruits and carbon dioxide.

The main ingredient is limonene, a carbon-based compound produced in more than 300 plant species. It makes up about 95% of the oil in orange peels. Combining limonene oxide, CO2, and a special catalyst creates a polymer called polylimonene carbonate. It has many qualities of ordinary polystyrene.

One good thing about the new process is that it uses CO2 which might otherwise end up in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas, say the researchers. Their work gets funding from the Packard Foundation fellowship program, the National Science Foundation, the Cornell Center for Materials Research, and the Cornell University Center for Biotechnology.

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