When it comes to manufacturing chemicals, petroleum reigns supreme. But, new research on the development of sustainable biomass may make wood a more renewable alternative.
The process is looking to be a more cost-effective and environmentally safer option compared to petroleum that is just as effective in chemical production.
Professor Till Opatz of Mainz University said, “Our aim is to manufacture everyday products from renewable resources without an impact on the environment while at the same time ensuring that the process is economically competitive.” The current research has now made considerable progress towards using sustainable biomass, such as wood, as an alternative raw material for chemical production.
Carbon skeletons can be created purely from wood-based starting materials, as the research shows, and even the derivatives seem to be more efficient in creating chemicals if you compare them to the ones created from petroleum.
Opatz says that wood, as a material, contains a variety of potential starting materials that are inherently superior than petroleum products due to their chemical nature. Opatz added, “Wood is the ideal raw material because it is renewable and an easily accessible resource at the same time. Its composition is like a box of varied building blocks from which products for today’s modern world can be manufactured.”
Is Wood Truly Sustainable?
Despite the rather optimistic study on wood as a renewable resource, many environmental groups fear that the new preference over wood would mean more trees being cut to power chemical production. Wood is renewable, but an increased demand may put unnecessary pressure on the world’s forests, not to mention the increase in smoke emissions from wood being manufactured and processed. Firewood, for example, has always been a renewable resource, but has recently been linked to air pollution.
The question whether wood is truly sustainable is a no-brainer. Indeed, wood is a more renewable resource than petroleum, but as for it being a ‘greener’ technology, it isn’t as clear yet. For this effort to be a success, it is important to first progress in the minimizing of the environmental impact of wood burning so that wood can become both sustainable and green.
Perhaps, in the near future, wood would truly replace petroleum as a material for chemical production. Wood may be the ideal raw material, but it doesn’t mean that its production is entirely green. Efforts to reduce the carbon footprint in wood manufacturing, such as the use of more advanced equipment, should ultimately go hand in hand for wood to be a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to petroleum.