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Researchers have found a way to convert animal fats, such as lard, and vegetable oils, including waste oil, into olefins for use in the production of plastics.
Maria Muro-Small and Douglas Neckers irradiated animal and vegetable fats with ultraviolet light.
The process created a series of byproducts including glycerol that in turn can be transformed via catalytic processes into acrylic acids and other raw materials for the plastics industry.
The duo's study, published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, argues that the rising demand for sustainable development, as well as increasing raw material costs, makes it more important than ever to develop alternative sources of feedstocks.
Neckers, who owns BioSolar LLC in Millbury, Ohio, told FoodproductionDaily.com that shortages of raw materials and the rising price of petroleum-based feedstocks are what drive experiments like the one he and Muro-Small conducted.
"There have been a lot of people interested, but we need to move to the next level of practicality in terms of supply and demand," he added.