Oil’s used for a lot more than driving around

Most of the headlines that you see about biofuel are about making fuel for your car. But oil is used for alot more than transportation and energy. Its used to make plastics, and lots of other industial chemicals – even pharmaceuticals. James Dumesic, a University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical and biological engineering professor, reports in the June 30 issue of the journal Science on a better way to make a chemical intermediate called HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) from fructose: fruit sugar.

“Juben N. Chheda, a second graduate student working on the HMF project, sees the work as part of an explosion of interest in finding alternative sources for petroleum-based chemicals. “We need to develop new process technologies, and HMF is a building block that can replace products like PET, a plastic used for soda bottles,” he notes. “This is a first step for a range of chemical products that can be obtained from biomass resources, replacing those that come from petroleum sources.””

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