Eco-Friendly Method for Developing Plastics

The purpose of the project is to determine the effects of catalysts on the depolymerization of chitin using ionic liquids.

Summary of Project

Due to the current depletion of petroleum, scientists turn to more environmentally friendly sources to create feedstock chemicals which are then turned into various forms of plastics. This experiment aims to depolymerize fungal chitin into its monomer unit N-acetyl-D- glucosamine(NAG) using Ionic Liquids(IL).

When depolymerizing chitin, which ionic liquid catalyst design will hydrolyze chitin the most efficiently into NAG, a catalyst containing a propyl group (C3SO3H), a butyl (C4SO3H), or a hexyl group (C6SO3H)? The experimenter predicts that changing the alkyl length will affect the percent conversion.

The ionic liquid C4mim Cl was used as the solvent. Each catalyst was added to a chitin solution. During the depolymerization process, a sample was taken every five minutes for the first hour, then every fifteen minutes for the second hour. After the hydrolysis reaction, dilutions were performed for analyzation by UV-Vis. Stock solutions were used as the standards produce a linear relationship needed in the calculation of percent conversion from the absorbance of the chitin solution and IL catalyst data.

The results showed the highest percent conversion of chitin into reducing sugars was the C3SO3H catalyst therefore proving the hypothesis correct. The project verifies using ILs as a solvent in the depolymerization of fungal chitin as well as showing how the structural changes to the ionic liquid catalyst, such as alkyl chain length, affects the percent conversion of chitin into NAG. This opens up the scientific field to the study of chitin and ILs as a “green” solution to the production of plastics.

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Eco-Friendly Method for Developing Plastics

The purpose of the project is to determine the effects of catalysts on the depolymerization of chitin using ionic liquids.

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2018 ScienceBuzz Symposium

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We are excited to announce the first annual ScienceBuzz Symposium, dedicated to middle and high school students. The conference and registration is completely free! Currently, the symposium date is June 9, 2018.

Pre-register for the symposium by visiting the conference website or clicking here. There are a limited number of seats and we expect to fill up quickly, so register ASAP. The event will include several internationally-renowned speakers, workshop sessions, company exhibitions, scholarships, and research presentations. 


The 2018 ScienceBuzz Symposium is the first, completely free conference exclusively for middle and high school students. Our theme for this year is “One Day of Powerful Talks.”

It will be hosted in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, but will include students from around the state and nearby regions. The event will have national guest keynote speakers (including a Nobel Prize Laureate, the head of a leading scientific institution, college admissions officers, university professors, leaders in gifted education, and top biopharma executives). It will also include workshop sessions, student poster presentations, five research scholarship awards, organizational and company exhibitions, and unique networking opportunities.

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