Glucose, a monosaccharide or simple sugar, is the main source of energy for most living things. Because it is so ubiquitous, scientists consider it to be a good alternative to oil, which is used to produce plastics, fuels, and other products. While it is a difficult to convert glucose into forms that are practical for use, chemists at the PNNL, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in Richland, Washington have developed a clean and efficient way to convert natural sugars into plastics.
"The chemists detail in Science how they used metal chlorides… to transform 70 percent of glucose and nearly 90 percent of fructose into HMF, [which is a molecule that can easily be manipulated into a variety of chemicals and plastics]."
The research done by Conrad Zhang, a leading chemist in the project, and his colleagues could become the groundwork of a method that converts biomass into, ultimately, plastics and fuels. The process runs at about 100 degrees Celsius, making it a much more efficient procedure than conventional oil refining practices, which operate at about 600 degrees Celsius. While Zhang admits that full-scale commercialization of the process may take years, it certainly seems promising, seeing how glucose is the most abundant source of renewable energy in the world