Green catalysts with Earth-abundant metals accelerate production of bio-based plastic
How crystalline structure can affect the performance of MnO2 catalysts
Date:January 7, 2019
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Scientists have developed and analyzed a novel catalyst for the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural, which is crucial for generating new raw materials that replace the classic non-renewable ones used for making many plastics.
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have developed and analyzed a novel catalyst for the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural, which is crucial for generating new raw materials that replace the classic non-renewable ones used for making many plastics.
It should be no surprise to most readers that finding an alternative to non-renewable natural resources is a key topic in current research. Some of the raw materials required for manufacturing many of today’s plastics involve non-renewable fossil resources, coal, and natural gas, and a lot of effort has been devoted to finding sustainable alternatives. 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) is an attractive raw material that can be used to create polyethylene furanoate, which is a bio-polyester with many applications.
One way of making FDCA is through the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF), a compound that can be synthesized from cellulose. However, the necessary oxidation reactions require the presence of a catalyst, which helps in the intermediate steps of the reaction so that the final product can be achieved.
Many of the catalysts studied for use in the oxidation of HMF involve precious metals; this is clearly a drawback because these metals are not widely available. Other researchers have found out that manganese oxides combined with certain metals (such as iron and copper) can be used as catalysts. Although this is a step in the right direction, an even greater finding has been reported by a team of scientists from Tokyo Tech: manganese dioxide (MnO2) can be used by itself as an effective catalyst if the crystals made with it have the appropriate structure.
The team, which includes Associate Professor Keigo Kamata and Professor Michikazu Hara, worked to determine which MnO2 crystal structure would have the best catalytic activity for making FDCA and why. They inferred through computational analyses and the available theory that the structure of the crystals was crucial because of the steps involved in the oxidation of HMF. First, MnO2 transfers a certain amount of oxygen atoms to the substrate (HMF or other by-products) and becomes MnO2-δ. Then, because the reaction is carried out under an oxygen atmosphere, MnO2-δ quickly oxidizes and becomes MnO2 again. The energy required for this process is related to the energy required for the formation of oxygen vacancies, which varies greatly with the crystal structure. In fact, the team calculated that active oxygen sites had a lower (and thus better) vacancy formation energy.
To verify this, they synthesized various types of MnO2 crystals and then compared their performance through numerous analyses. Of these crystals, β-MnO2 was the most promising because of its active planar oxygen sites. Not only was its vacancy formation energy lower than that of other structures, but the material itself was proven to be very stable even after being used for oxidation reactions on HMF.
The team did not stop there, though, as they proposed a new synthesis method to yield highly pure β-MnO2 with a large surface area in order to improve the FDCA yield and accelerate the oxidation process even further. “The synthesis of high-surface-area β-MnO2 is a promising strategy for the highly efficient oxidation of HMF with MnO2 catalysts,” states Kamata.
With the methodological approach taken by the team, the future development of MnO2 catalysts has been kick-started. “Further functionalization of β-MnO2 will open up a new avenue for the development of highly efficient catalysts for the oxidation of various biomass-derived compounds,” concludes Hara. Researches such as this one ensure that renewable raw materials will be available to humankind to avoid all types of shortage crises.
Materials provided by Tokyo Institute of Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Eri Hayashi, Yui Yamaguchi, Keigo Kamata, Naoki Tsunoda, Yu Kumagai, Fumiyasu Oba, Michikazu Hara. Effect of MnO2 Crystal Structure on Aerobic Oxidation of 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural to 2,5-Furandicarboxylic Acid. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b09917
Tokyo Institute of Technology. “Green catalysts with Earth-abundant metals accelerate production of bio-based plastic: How crystalline structure can affect the performance of MnO2 catalysts.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2019.
10 Ways to Go Green in Your Home This Year
The environment is an important part of our earth, and keeping it healthy for our future generations should be a priority. Unfortunately, most people aren’t sure how to get started. If you’re looking for ways to do your part without having to invest long hours, we’ve got you covered. Get inspired with these simple tips from the writers over at Lawn Doctor Denver to make your home a little greener today!
1) Give Up Junk Mail
While recycling may be good, it’s best to avoid unnecessary paper waste altogether. Be proactive when you sign up for things, and help get your current amount under control with these simple steps. If you’re enrolled in online billing, go paperless for all of your credit or banking accounts.
2) Conserve Energy
Conserving energy does not only help you save money on energy bills, but it’s also great for the
environment! A few ways to minimize the use of energy includes:
Adjust your thermostat. A few degrees higher in the summer and lower in the winter can make a big difference.
Use energy efficient bulbs for all lights. Using these types of bulbs are better for the environment, and more importantly, better for your wallet.
Switch up your laundry. Try washing with cold water, and air drying on a line to notice a huge change and save money on utility bills.
3) Minimize Water Use
While long showers may be nice, wasted water is bad for the environment–and bad for your water bill. Try cutting back on your water use in these 2 ways:
Take shorter showers. A little less singing, a little more cleaning of the body!
Do some shower maintenance. Installing a low-flow showerhead and a faucet aerator can help conserve water without losing pressure.
4) Use Less Gas
Whether it’s taking local trips instead of long distance or starting a carpool group for the office, being mindful of how much gas you consume is great for the environment and can quickly save you major money. Try biking or walking to more destinations for an added fitness bonus!
5) Be Mindful of Your Purchases
We’ve all been guilty of buying things we don’t really need, but when we do it in excess, it creates serious waste. The best option is to borrow, but if you decide to purchase, always try to invest in high quality, reusable items when you can. Consider borrowing for these common items:
Seldomly used appliances
Consider using reusable items for:
Packaging (think boxes)
And many more
6) Invest in a Green, Green Lawn
When it comes to landscaping, it’s not just about green grass. Get a green, green lawn by:
Eliminating damaging chemicals. Using toxic insecticides and other chemicals can damage the surrounding wildlife and environment for years to come. Consider partnering with a lawn care company like Lawn Doctor who uses eco-friendly lawn treatments instead of harsh chemicals.
Planting drought-friendly plants. This is a great way to keep your garden pretty without extra watering. These can be a little tricky to select yourself, so consider consulting a landing expert before investing in new plants.
7) Dispose of Electronics Properly
Hang on to phones, laptops, batteries, and other electronics as long as possible; and when the time comes to get rid of them, contact your local government for details on the proper disposal methods. We know it’s easier and less time-consuming to just throw them in the trash with the rest of your garbage, but going the extra mile will make you feel good about doing your part, and you’ll be contributing to a healthier, green environment!
8) Swap Household Cleaners
While they may be tough on germs, the harsh chemicals in many household cleaners can do some serious damage to the environment. Switch to green cleaners for a green and clean home!
9) Reduce Use of Toxic Bug Sprays and Pesticides
Many pesticides and aerosol bug sprays release dangerous chemicals, toxic to not only the environment but also to your family and pets. If you’re doing your own pest control, be sure to utilize eco-friendly sprays to keep your home bug and chemical-free. If you outsource your pest control, hire a company like Lawn Doctor that offers green alternatives to controlling bugs and mosquitoes.
10) Hire Local
Not only are local companies more likely to care about your community and environment, but they also inherently generate less waste. Shopping and hiring local means fewer emissions from delivery vehicles, and often safer practices for the environment.
Remember, even just a small change here and there is a great start. Let us know what other ways you go green in your home today!
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Green Circle Salons sets very clear standards, and is an open, relationship‐focused company.
We believe in clear expectations, ethical business dealings, transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness. Fairness, honesty and integrity is our compass. We are a movement for positive green change that has substance but also style, learning, and creativity. By working together to understand the links between our actions and their consequences on the planet, we will prove the value in sourcing locally and increasing efficiency, while redirecting, recycling, and repurposing materials once destined for landfill.
We are committed to giving back 5% of our pre-tax profits to work with local and international organizations to support programs that create positive social and environmental change.
Imagine if we all just believe and act on the things we know. If we’re honest about how our actions have consequences on people and the planet. Imagine then, the differences we can make together. Today, undoubtedly, climate change is the challenge of our time. We recognize that environmental issues are not just a series of isolated events like deforestation, the landfill crises or air pollution. We are beginning to understand that environmental problems affect our economics, our social structure, and the health and wellbeing of humanity as a whole.