Turning corn and other agricultural products into high-valued chemicals is just one of the alternative uses for agricultural products and byproducts that researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are pursuing. Chemicals may be used as plastics for car components, food additives, clothing fibers, polymers, paints, fuel for automobiles, and other industrial and consumer products.
The conversion process, which recently won an R&D 100 Award from Research and Development Magazine, transforms corn into a cost-effective, environmentally friendly source of chemicals based on the platform chemical succinic acid. The acid is produced by fermenting the sugar found in corn which is then converted to chemicals that are used to make an assortment of products. The multi-step process was developed with researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge, Argonne, and National Renewable Energy Laboratories and is being commercialized in cooperation with Applied CarboChemicals.
A food irradiation process being commercialized by Pacific Northwest researchers ensures deadly bacteria, like E. coli, are destroyed from food before it hits the supermarket. The process can be used for a variety of foods and for sterilizing medical equipment.