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MIT Research News

April 9, 2019

Shrinking the carbon footprint of a chemical in everyday objects

New method for synthesizing the epoxides found in plastics, textiles, and pharmaceuticals could be powered by electricity.

Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

The biggest source of global energy consumption is the industrial manufacturing of products such as plastics, iron, and steel. Not only does manufacturing these materials require huge amounts of energy, but many of the reactions also directly emit carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

In an effort to help reduce this energy use and the related emissions, MIT chemical engineers have devised an alternative approach to synthesizing epoxides, a type of chemical that is used to manufacture diverse products, including plastics, pharmaceuticals, and textiles. Their new approach, which uses electricity to run the reaction, can be done at room temperature and atmospheric pressure while eliminating carbon dioxide as a byproduct.