Environmental concerns about the use of PET plastic in the creation of water bottles has accelerated the search for more friendly alternative materials in recent years. University of Florida scientists have been successfully using lignin, a plentiful organic polymer to create a PET substitute that is similar to PET in structure.
PET is made up of alternating units of the fossil fuel feedstocks terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, and it is this aromatic-aliphatic structure that is the key to its thermal stability. Now Stephen Miller at the University of Florida Gainesville in the US and colleagues have used lignin – one of the most abundant naturally occurring organic polymers – to produce a polymer that possesses alternating aromatic and aliphatic segments. Thus it not only bears a structural resemblance to PET but, importantly, it also has very similar thermal properties.