HNEI researchers are producing bioplastics from renewable feedstocks. Bioplastics and bio-oils have been produced from renewable materials such as food processing byproducts. This is a biological conversion process using microbial species that yield biopolyesters under two different conditions. The resultant materials have similar properties as petrochemical plastics, but are biodegradable. Other feedstocks being evaluated include food scraps, cooking oil waste, crude glycerol, and carbon dioxide plus hydrogen.
HNEI researchers demonstrated a combination of microbial biosynthesis and thermal catalysis in conversion of biomass syngas into bio-oil. HNEI developed a bacterial strain having efficient CO2 reduction with hydrogen. The metabolic products (cell mass) primarily included polyester. The polyester was converted into bio-oil in a thermal reforming catalysed with phosphoric acid.
HNEI researchers studied the kinetics and deactivation mechanisms of solid Bronsted acid to achieve a high yield (>90%) of levulinic acid from carbohydrates for industrial application. Levulinic acid is a platform chemical for a range of products including gasoline.
HNEI researchers developed an artificial photosynthesis system that captures solar energy with photovoltaic cells and converts water into hydrogen with solar electricity. A special hydrogen-oxidizing bacterium fixes CO2 with solar hydrogen in dark conditions and produces valued products.