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Renewable plastics out of corn cobs

Renewable plastics out of corn cobs

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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.

Products made from 1,5-PDO can be found in many everyday items such as nylon in your clothing, paint in your local home improvement store, and plastics in your car. All 1,5-PDO is currently made from oil, which Pyran will replace with its renewable corn cob-based 1,5-PDO at less than half the cost!

Pyran has its roots in the UW and Madison entrepreneurial ecosystem and we were proud to open our first labspace early this year in the MG&E Innovation Center at University Research Park (Madison, WI). As a state with one of the highest concentrations of biomass feedstocks (wood chips and corn cobs) in the country, Wisconsin is well-positioned to supply the next generation of biomass-based chemicals, and Pyran hopes to be the catalyst to make that happen.

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