Plastics or polymers are omnipresent in our daily lives. At present, they are produced from crude oil or gas. However, as fossil resources are limited we need to look for alternative methods for the production of plastics from regenerative resources for the long term. The research group of Professor Dr. Stefan Mecking, chair of chemical materials sciences at the University of Constance, has found a way to produce plastics from plant oil.
This is the first time that a method has been found to enable the conversion of fat-containing plant acids into a plastic by maintaining the linear molecular structure of long molecular chains.
Traditional methods of plastics production involving the use of regenerative resources only partially utilise the fat-containing acids, which means that either part of the basic raw material is wasted or soft plastics with a branched, tree-like molecular structure are generated. The new method developed by Dorothee Quinzler during her doctoral thesis, enables the complete, loss-free utilisation of the basic plant raw material and the transfer of its specific molecular structure to the plastic.
In contrast to plastics produced with traditional methods, these innovative plastics have a non-branched and regular, linear molecular structure consisting of long chains of molecules: “This looks rather like a packet of uncooked spaghetti,” explained Stefan Mecking. The regularity of the molecules gives the plastics very favourable properties: the degree of crystallisation and the melting behaviour of these substances is similar to that of polyethylene, as was reported by Quinzler and Mecking in the journal “Angewandte Chemie” (online publication of 7th May 2010).
Professor Dr. Stefan Mecking
University of Constance
Department of Chemical Materials Sciences
Tel.: +49 (0)7531 / 88-2593 und 88-5151