The 241st ACS National Meeting & Exposition started yesterday in Anaheim, CA, and will continue through Thursday, March 31. The American Chemical Society (ACS), one of the world’s largest scientific organizations with over 163,000 members, holds two meetings every year that cover the gamut of chemistry and its applications. The theme of the Spring 2011 meeting is “Chemistry of Natural Resources.” One of the plenary symposia presented yesterday was by Piet Lemstra from the University of Technology at Eindhoven, The Netherlands, who discussed petroleum and biological polymers. As his abstract for the talk explains:
The forecast is that the world production of plastics could grow to > 1,000 million tons/annum at the end of this century, in view of the very uneven distribution of plastics production and consumption, e.g. approximately 150 kg/capita in Western-Europe and the USA versus 25 kg/capita in China and 6 kg/capita in India. The current feedstock for producing synthetic polymers is almost exclusively oil and currently about 5% of the world oil production is used for that purpose. Considering the strong projected growth, we need 25% or more of the current oil production for making polymers by the end of this century which is not sustainable taking the depletion of oil reserves into account. Alternative technologies have been developed already by using coal and / or gas as feedstock for producing polymers. A completely different approach regarding future feedstock for polymers is using biomass.
A scroll through the large technical program shows the dizzying different ways polymers and plastics affect our lives. There are talks on carbohydrates, which are natural polymers, and sessions that discuss the fundamentals of polymer science, as well as their applications. There are several talks on analytical techniques that are used to study polymers. For example, there will be a presentation on improving the detection capability of a spectroscopic technique known as Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR) that looks for organic compounds. The authors will describe how they use polymer layer systems to make FT-IR more sensitive to finding a wide range of volatile vapors. Another example of an analytical technique is chromatography. There will be a talk on making special nanoparticles out of biological polymers that beat out conventional methods for finding important proteins in mixtures. Source: American Chemical Society (ACS) official website – Spring 2011 National Meeting & Exposition Image by Stephen Matta, used under its Creative Commons license.
Rajendrani "Raj" Mukhopadhyay is a science writer and editor who contributes news stories and feature articles on scientific advances to a variety of magazines. Raj holds Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.