Scientists Create Plastic From Plants…Goodbye Oil Economy?


We focus a lot on the use of oil in vehicular applications, but the fact of the matter is that all oil isn’t burned. Plastics are made from petro-chemicals and can be found in everything from carpets to music CD’s. If we’re going to make our limited oil reserves last, we’re going to need to replace plastic, or find another way to make it.

Dutch Scientists are on the case, for the first time successfully creating the basic building blocks of plastic production from plant matter. They’ve done so using nanatechnology to break down plant biomass into ethylene and propylene, two common chemical structures using in plastic production. The scientists used a catalyst of nanoparticles separated by carbon nanofibers that converted biogas into these two chemical components.

The hope is that non-edible biomass could be used to replace plastic production that relies on crude oil for these chemicals. The process did not produce excess methane gas either, so even those these plant plastics aren’t biodegradable, in the long run they’re probably cleaner than crude oil anyways.

Nanotechnology holds a lot of promise in the field of alternative fuels, and the use of plastics has never been higher. But there will always be the debate about using arable land for fuel production when there are so many hungry people in the world. But that doesn’t mean they should just stop trying; who knows what sorts of fruits these breakthroughs might lead to?

Source: Scientific American | Image: michy via Shutterstock

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • Curly

    But there will always be the debate about using arable land for fuel production when there are so many hungry people in the world.

    Then support more birth control pills and abortions when the pills fail. Problem taken care of..

  • @curly well sir

  • Pres

    There is so much unused land globally that only needs fresh water (e.g. desalinated seawater) to make it very productive.
    The only “shortage” is human intelligence, understanding, and compassion.
    They whine about rising sea levels… what better way to put some of that extra water to use.
    (nuclear power is a great way to desalinate water, distill sewage, and generate electricity)

  • Even the plant based plastic process uses oil. Transporting, powering the equipment etc… mining the elements using oil to make the equipment that makes the final product etc…


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  • Mushet

    First of all, you who advocate abortion advocate murder of babies. You hypocrite! Do you advocate your own abortion? The more humans, the more minds we have and the more minds we have, the more inventors, innovators, and engineers we have to help solve problems.

    Second of all, there is plenty of unused land and we can irrigate deserts with cheap energy.

    Thirdly, even if you have to start off using oil to get the process going, it is renewable and soon becomes self reproducing. Biomass is great.

    • mental_patient

      We have billions of minds that are not being put into use . Why we need more?

  • sheckyvegas

    Mushet –
    I believe in abortion. And in many cases, I believe it should be retroactive.
    (wink, wink)…

  • T Adkins

    These 2 “Google Solve for X talks” may change the world and
    this may help address the water issue:

    this may address the useable land and it has a plant based fuel concept:

    If it helps get people out of poverty, then statistically it will even address Curly’s “concern” as people tend to have fewer children if you raise their standard of living.

  • LJ

    Henry Ford solved this issue a looooong time ago, but then the various governments of the world prohibited marijuana and its many derivatives. *shakes head* & *says a prayer*

    • T Adkins

      MJ or hemp is grown in quite a few countries now for industrial use, at some point the US will wake up or be left behind. At this point sadly my money is on being left behind. Just one more thing we will import from Canada, China, and most of Europe.

  • I hope science will go on with researches and oil economy will hurt because of that.