Chemicals made from simple plant sugar - more specifically, glucaric acid, which is created by oxidizing glucose - are capable of amazing things.
Recognized by the Department of Energy as one of the top 12 "building block chemicals" that can be produced from sugars, glucaric acid can be converted to high-value, bio-based chemicals or materials.
In other words, it's a biodegradable, environment-neutral chemical that could be used in everyday materials, such as road salt and detergents, to replace harmful persistent petrochemicals and phosphates, which can last for centuries.
Scientists have long known glucaric acid is well suited as a benign alternative to such chemicals, Kiely said. But the potential has gone unrealized because no one has be able to solve this riddle: How do you produce glucaric acid on a large scale in way that is cost efficient?
That is, until now.
Kiely and his research team of Tyler Smith, Kylie Presta and Kirk Hash know how. They've not only invented a chemical process using a computer-controlled reactor to make the product cheaply in large volumes, they've discovered a process that is adaptable and can produce other environment-friendly building block chemicals.
Fun-to-read stories like this are another reminder that we are living in truly amazing times -- as humanity's quest to live more sustainably leads to new business ideas that are making saving the earth tremendously profitable.