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Siluria’s New Technology Could Make Plastic Bottles from Natural Gas

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PlasticsThe start-up Siluria has discovered a way to swap natural gas for crude oil as a key ingredient in the plastics around us.

Siluria has an excellent pedigree. Bill Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, MIT scientists Angela Belecher, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen all backed the six year old start up.

Thanks to a new partnership with the U.S. arm of Brazilian photochemical company Braskem, Siluria may be making cutting edge changes to the plastics industry. The company is building its first demonstration plant at one of Braskem’s factories in Texas and might be ready as early as the end of 2014.

Siluria has created a process that turns methane in natural gas into ethylene, the key ingredient in plastics and plans to implement this in the plant. Siluria can also turn natural gas into propylene, another key ingredient in a products like antifreeze and deodorant.

Genetically engineered nanowires created by the start-up are used to start a chemical process that converts methane into various chemical compounds. This is revolutionary compared to the traditional way ethylene is created, which involves using hot steam to break down crude oil into the ethylene molecule.

The traditional however, uses a tremendous amount of energy and has high carbon emissions. Siluria’s process results in the same product using a more eco-friendly approach that uses cleaner energy and has lower carbon emissions.

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