‘Yellow chemistry’ turns sulphur waste into plastics

‘Yellow chemistry’ turns sulphur waste into plastics

6:13 AM, 8th September 2015
‘Yellow chemistry’ turns sulphur waste into plastics

ARLINGTON, US: While many scientists are hard at work on “green chemistry” projects that will benefit the environment, there are a handful of researchers at the University of Arizona who are starting a trend of their own - “yellow chemistry.” That’s because their main ingredient is sulphur, a yellow waste product from petroleum refining and natural gas production.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), chemists Jeff Pyun and Richard Glass and a team of collaborators have mixed up a chemical recipe for sulphur-based plastic, and they’ve already used it to make everything from toys and lenses to a 45 record. But, ultimately, they're thinking of much bigger applications with this new class of plastics.

Pyun said the annual production of sulphur is approximately 70 million tonne per year, the majority of which comes from oil and gas production. While much of that is used up making sulphuric acid and fertilizer, there are still millions of tonne left over.

He envisions using sulphur waste to make lighter, cheaper electric car batteries capable of holding four to five times the charge we've come to expect. Because of its high refractive index and excellent mid-infrared transparency, sulphur also holds potential for optical applications, such as night vision devices, thermal monitoring sensors and medical imaging hardware.

This research is the result of a collaboration that includes the following researchers: Kookheon Char, a professor in the school of chemical and biological engineering at Seoul National University and director of the National Creative Research Initiative-Center for Intelligent Hybrids; Yung-Eun Sung, a professor in the school of chemical and biological engineering at Seoul National University; and Michael MacKay, a professor in the department of materials science and engineering at the University of Delaware.

This research was supported by NSF.

© The National Science Foundation News

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