Why make plastic from petroleum and fossil fuels when they can be made from plants and bio-based materials?
Plastic waste remains a huge problem, one that WSU researchers are working on, but other research across the country looks at alternatives to fossil fuel-based plastics.
WSU collaborates with Iowa State University on the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (CB2) on developing high-value biobased products from agricultural and forestry feedstocks. The WSU Composite Materials and Engineering Center provides expertise in renewable resources to develop those novel bio-based polymers, chemicals, and composites.
The work at WSU has been underway for a … » More …
Paths that grew crystal clear
Crystals reflect the best of nature’s handiwork. With their atoms aligned in repeating 3D patterns, crystals can be as momentary as a snowflake or as common as the sodium chloride in table salt. They can sparkle on a finger, scatter rainbows across the room, or be grown on your kitchen table with a few ingredients from the hobby shop.
Some also possess unusual properties, such as quartz crystal’s ability to generate a tiny electrical current when pressure is applied. Known as the piezoelectric effect, this useful phenomenon helped inspire the rise of a global, multibillion dollar crystal growth industry.
Today, manmade crystals power an astonishing … » More …
Standing up for lignins
There’s a lot of carbon in a tree. And it’s carbon already circulating through the biosphere, so moving it from tree to degradable product, and then back into the soil as it decomposes results in a zero sum carbon game. Compare that with petroleum, where “nodding donkeys” are constantly bringing anciently sequestered carbon back into circulation, and trees win, hands down.
Except for one hitch. A lot of that carbon is bound up in lignins. Chemists speak sternly of lignin, as if talking about a willful child. Lignin, they say, is a recalcitrant molecule. It’s really tough—and takes a lot of external activation energy—to liberate … » More …
Video: Dr. Universe explains biofuels
Video: A living laboratory
Bioproducts experts at Washington State University are unlocking the secrets of turning crops into jet fuel.
Read more in “Wood Takes Wing.”
Video by Washington State University Communications
When the leaves disappear from the hardwoods and the last fruits of fall shrivel away in the cold, I’m tempted to call the winter a despondent time. Yet, when it seems like all color has drained away under the snow, a second, more hopeful thought occurs that winter quietly renews the plants. Irish poet and novelist Edna O’Brien summed it up nicely: “In a way Winter is the real Spring—the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature.”
So, too, do our communities face their winters, times when they struggle in the face of economic uncertainty. Like the towns around Grays Harbor, dependent … » More …
Wood Takes Wing
The most complex chemistry lab on the planet is growing in your neighborhood. There might be a tree in your own backyard, cranking out chemicals as it converts sunlight to food, wards off pests, and circulates water and nutrients through it roots, branches, and leaves.
So diverse is the chemical compendium produced by trees that we get aspirin (willow bark is a natural source of salicylic acid and has been used to treat pain since ancient times), the ink Leonardo used in his notebooks (from leaf galls produced by wasp larvae), and natural antibacterials (the fiber in cedar chips is used to make hospital gowns).
… » More …