- R&D 100 Awards
Acrylonitrile is a major commodity chemical employed in many diverse, commercial applications—from clothing to carpets to plastics to automobile components. Acrylonitrile can also be polymerized to polyacrylonitrile, which is the primary building block in carbon fiber composites. However, nearly all commercial acrylonitrile is produced today via an energy-intensive, chemically hazardous, petroleum-based process. The Nitrilation to Acrylonitrile Process provides a sustainable route to produce acrylonitrile and carbon fibers via nitrilation chemistry, offering a cost-effective alternative to the conventional petrochemical production, while also achieving even greater yields of acrylonitrile than the state-of-the-art ammoxidation process. The new, robust catalytic process has been able to achieve a 98 percent yield of acrylonitrile from 3- hydroxypropionic acid, which can be biologically produced from plant sugars, ethanol, glycerol, syngas, and other lowcost renewable feedstocks.