Renewable plastics out of corn cobs

When Pyran’s chemical engineering team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison embarked on their new project aimed at tackling the enormous problem of replacing oil to make paints and plastics, they had a feeling they would generate some interesting research, but the discovery they made surprised even them. Currently, the vast majority of the paints and plastics that are everywhere around you are made from oil. While oil is vital in the production of these products that enable our way of life, it is a diminishing resource that contributes to climate change. But what if we could make these same paint and plastic products not from oil, but from plants? Pyran co-founders Professor George Huber, Dr. Kevin Barnett, and Dr. Kefeng Huang did just that when they discovered a new chemical pathway to make an oil-based chemical called 1,5-pentanediol (1,5-PDO) out of corn cobs.

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