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Papermaking Waste Could Fix BPA Problem

ACS Meeting News: Chemical engineers develop bisguaiacol F from lignin waste as a replacement for bisphenol A

by Bethany Halford
March 24, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 12

Lignin waste and the dangers of bisphenol A (BPA) seem like two unrelated problems. But not to Richard P. Wool and Kaleigh H. Reno. Instead, the University of Delaware chemical engineering professor and graduate student, respectively, see the first problem as a solution to the second. Every year, the pulp and paper industry produces millions of tons of lignin waste as a by-product. This material is usually incinerated. But a group led by Wool and Reno have developed a process for turning two aromatic alcohols that make up lignin—vanillyl alcohol and guaiacol—into a compound that could be used to replace BPA as a monomer that provides rigidity to plastics. The compound, bisguaiacol F, is structurally similar to BPA, but it has some differences, including two pendant methoxy groups. These groups, the researchers said, should keep bisguaiacol F from binding to estrogen receptors, where scientists think BPA wreaks havoc. The Delaware researchers used Environmental Protection Agency software to evaluate bisguaiacol F for safety and Wool’s twinkling fractal theory of the glass transition to predict that its mechanical and thermal properties would be similar to those of BPA.


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