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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Plant Polymer Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #286344

Title: Conversion of agricultural by-products to methyl cellulose

item Biswas, Atanu
item Berfield, Janet
item Saha, Badal
item Cheng, Huai

Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/26/2013
Publication Date: 4/30/2013
Citation: Biswas, A., Berfield, J.L., Saha, B.C., Cheng, H.N. 2013. Conversion of agricultural by-products to methyl cellulose. Industrial Crops and Products. 46:297-300.

Interpretive Summary: In agriculture, there are lots of residues which are of relatively low value. For example, in the processing of wheat and barley, the straw can account for 50% of the crop yield. The straw can be used for fuel, animal feed, livestock bedding, thatching, basket-making, and packaging. Likewise, rice hull accounts for about 20% of the crop yield. Rice hull can be used as fuel, fertilizer, pillow stuffing, building material, and insulation material. In view of the high volumes of wheat, barley and rice produced, it would be useful to find new and high-value uses for these agricultural byproducts. We discovered that through suitable pre-treatment and reaction these agricultural residues can be converted into methyl cellulose. Methyl cellulose is a specialty chemical that exceeds $2 per pound. It can be used as a thickener or emulsifier in various food and cosmetic products, as a binder, film former, and release agent in agriculture, and as an additive in adhesives, protective coatings, and personal care. This discovery will benefit farmers by providing additional (and higher value) outlets for their agricultural byproducts. It will benefit industrial users of methyl cellulose because it provides a cheaper starting material, thereby decreasing overall cost. In the end, the consumers may also benefit by having decreased costs of consumer goods.

Technical Abstract: Agricultural residues are attractive raw materials for the production of industrial polymers because they are renewable and biodegradable, involve less toxic materials during manufacturing, add value to agricultural byproducts, and decrease the global dependence on petroleum-based feedstock. In this work, it has been shown that agricultural residues such as wheat straw, barley straw, and rice hull can be converted to methyl cellulose, an industrial polymer used as adhesives, protective coatings, personal care, and in agriculture. Weight yields range from 30 to 70%. The degree of substitution (DS) varies from 0.5 - 2.8. In addition, the methyl cellulose can be further converted to acetylated methyl cellulose. These products have been characterized via NMR analysis.