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The future of clothing is about to get a whole lot sweeter. Scientists from Singapore’s A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology have discovered how to create adipic acid, a key component of nylon, from sugar. The technology, according to the researchers, offers an eco-friendlier route to producing the chemical, which is typically derived from petroleum-based chemicals that create large emissions of environmentally damaging nitrous oxides. Bio-based adipic acid, on the other hand, can be synthesized using mucic acid, oxidized from sugar obtained from fruit peels.

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Unlike current processes, which either result in low product efficiency and yield, or require harsh, high-pressure conditions, IBN’s new chemical catalytic process is “simple, efficient and green,” says Jackie Y. Ying, executive director of the institute.

The new chemical catalytic process is “simple, efficient and green,” IBN researchers say.

“In the face of growing environmental concerns over the use of fossil fuels and diminishing natural resources, there is an increasing need for a renewable source for energy and chemicals,” she says. “We have designed a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to convert sugar into adipic acid via our patented catalytic process technology.”

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The group is now working to scale up the technology using raw biomass as feedstock. “We are excited that our new protocol can efficiently convert adipic acid from sugar, bringing us one step closer toward industrialization,” Ying says.

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