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Catalyst could improve production of glass alternatives

22 August 2012

A catalyst could dramatically reduce the amount of waste made in the production of methyl methacrylate, a monomer used in the manufacture of glass alternatives.

Photo courtesy of the University of Oregon
Photo courtesy of the University of Oregon

Global production of methyl methacrylate was 4 million metric tons in 2010. Each kilogram produced also yields 2.5 kilograms of ammonium hydrogen sulphate, an unusable corrosive byproduct. Disposal is extremely energy intensive, consuming 2 percent of the energy used in Texas annually.

University of Oregon chemistry professor, David Tyler and his team have identified a catalyst that doesn’t produce ammonium hydrogen sulphate, for which the university is securing a provisional patent.

“There were some really fundamental chemical reasons why previous catalysts didn’t work with this process,” Tyler said. “We’ve found a catalyst that overcomes all of those objections.”

Professor David Tyler
Professor David Tyler

With the identification of a working catalyst, Tyler will focus his research on how to accelerate the conversion to methyl methacrylate. The industrial standard for a practical catalyst is conversion of acetone cyanohydrin into methyl methacrylate in the span of a minute or two, Tyler said.

The team's findings were presented on Tuesday August 21 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, in Philadelphia.

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