Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mad about Mad Cows

I've mentioned before that polymer chemists are clever enough to make polymers out of pretty much anything [*], with the emphasis clearly being on any sort of bio-based feedstock. Yesterday's announcement pretty much ices the cake. Tell me you don't chuckle a little bit when you read the headline

"University Turning Mad Cow Parts into Plastic"

Before anyone gets too excited about the commercial possibilities, take this whole project as a sign of academic naivete, considering that "about 5,000 tons of cow parts a week are dumped into landfills, estimated [research David] Bressler. That garbage could yield 3,500 tons of raw material for the new plastic." Who is going to develop and commercialize a process that is capped at 3500 tons of plastic a year? What application is that small? Even if you make a large margin of 10 cents a pound (and I am being very generous in citing a margin like that for a low performing plastic), that is a profit of only $70,000/year.

"We don't have a name," he laughed. "We don't really have a catchphrase nickname for it." I can at least help with that. Since it is made with blocks of protein and blocks of synthetic materials, how about a "cowpolymer"?

[*] Isn't that sneaky that I can complement both my fellow polymer chemists and myself in a subtle manner?


Eric F. Brown said...

Cowpolymer. Heh heh. Kudos.

Curryworks said...

But think about the other animals we can polymerize. Lets make an acrylate derivative of a mouse tie the tails together add KPS (needs to be at 37
C). Characterization will be simple we can get absolute Mn for a single chain using a lab scale. The primary application will be for (any takers)?