Photosynthesis-inspired process makes commodity chemicals

Read the full story from Northwestern University.

Northwestern University chemists have taken inspiration from plants to revolutionize the way an important industrial chemical is made.

In a first for the field, the Northwestern team used light and water to convert acetylene into ethylene, a widely used, highly valuable chemical that is a key ingredient in plastics.

While this conversion typically requires high temperatures and pressures, flammable hydrogen and expensive metals to drive the reaction, Northwestern’s photosynthesis-like process is much less expensive and less energy intensive. Not only is the new process environmentally friendly, it also works incredibly well — successfully converting nearly 100% of acetylene into ethylene. 

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