Posted January 20th, 2009
International news outlets are spreading the word about Polytechnic Institute of NYU’s Professor Richard Gross who “envisions a future where plastics, a staple of modern society, will be converted to fuel.”
Professor Gross is advancing a method to create plastics that can be broken down by enzymes to become biodiesel.
Here’s an excerpt from Australia’s BigPond about his breakthrough research:
'We start with the vegetable oil and then we take the vegetable oil and we then convert it to a plastic,' said Gross.
'It is going to spend time as a plastic and function as a plastic and after that is done then we will convert it back to the liquid fuel and get all of that energy value back, and that's the novel process we have created,' he added.
The concept has received $2.34 million of funding from the US. Defense Department, who is keen to utilise the technology to provide a viable source of fuel to front-line troops.
'The soldiers are carrying so much plastic with them in their MRE's or meal ready to eat packages, that they have a very large fuel source they are not using, that they are burying it. So the concept was, can we take that plastic and give the soldiers a ready source of fuel where there isn't any danger of having to bring that fuel up (to the front) another way.'
Professor Gross believes this invention has many uses past the battle field. The process doesn't work well enough to have commercial use yet but Gross is hopeful. 'We have a good start but we do have some more work to do. We are hopeful that within three years we can bring this to commercial reality.'
Gross says he looks forward to the day when plastics are powering homes and helping the environment rather than harming it.