NREL develops novel method to produce renewable acrylonitrile

December 16, 2017 |

In Colorado, the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) established a novel catalytic method to produce renewable acrylonitrile using 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP), which can be biologically produced from sugars. This hybrid biological-catalytic process offers an alternative to the conventional petrochemical production method and achieves unprecedented acrylonitrile yields. Researchers were able to achieve a 98% yield of acrylonitrile using a new, robust catalytic process.

In addition to the high yields, this new approach has multiple benefits over the current petroleum-based acrylonitrile production process. The new process eliminates production of hydrogen cyanide—a toxic side product—uses a simpler and less expensive catalyst, and could be done in a simpler reactor configuration. Moreover, this new high-yield process can utilize non-food biomass, such as agricultural wastes, as a feedstock instead of propylene. Acrylonitrile, a petroleum-derived commodity chemical, is one of the most widely used monomers in the chemical industry with many commercial applications.

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Category: Research

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