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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