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Sneha Joseph

Chemistry Assessment Task 1: Research Report

Question 1:

Compounds presently obtained from the petrochemical industry are derived from petroleum. The world's
increasingly voracious appetite for fossil fuels is driven by fast-growing populations and ever-rising aspirations
for the lifestyles and standard of living exemplified in the developed world. 1 The petrochemical industry is the
industry in which crude oil and fossil fuels are used to manufacture many useful products such as petrol,
ethylene, diesel, polyethylene, polystyrene and many other plastics that the world is currently heavily
dependent upon. 4 Crude oil and fossil fuels are NON-RENEWABLE resources. The current worlds crude oil
reserves are finite and there is considerable debate as to how long current supplies will last. 2

Fig 1. Petroleum Production Rates Fig 2. World Petroleum Consumption


Fig 1 shows a prediction of the worlds petroleum production rates. It is evident from this data that Petroleum
sources will dwindle in the coming 50-100 years. Fig 2 shows and highlights the increasing consumption of
petroleum across the world. It can be inferred from the graph that petroleum consumption will only increase.
Therefore it can be deduced that alternate sources for the compounds derived from the petrochemical
industry will be required.

Examples of alternative sources for industrially important sources such as ethene, is ethanol. Ethanol can be
produced from the fermentation of a variety of agricultural crops and it can easily be converted to ethene. 3

Reasons FOR Alternative Sources 2,3 Reasons AGAINST Alternative Sources


- Many jobs may be lost in the future in the - Inexpensive and relatively cheap in comparison to
petrochemical industry as fuel sources diminish and alternative resources
alternative fuel sources are favoured - Can be used in high quantities for simple and
- As crude oil supplies decrease, the current prices for everyday uses
products produced from crude oil will increase - Many people will no longer have jobs that they
substantially and hence alternative fuels will be more currently have in the petrochemical industry
cost efficient
- Processes to produce materials from crude oil are
environmentally damaging and cause large emissions
of greenhouse gases which overall contribute to
factors of climate change 4
- The polymers produced from crude oil are not
biodegradable making them difficult to dispose of

Regardless of which argument or reason for or against alternative sources is correct, it would be prudent for
the plastics industry to develop alternative sources3 of industrially important alkenes such as ethene.

- The four secondary sources used to gather this information vary as two textbook resources, a website
and an online scientific article all used to cross-reference information and arguments. The
information gathered from the Conquering Chemistry Textbook is the oldest secondary source of the
four cited, however very similar/almost same information is evident in both source 1, 3 and 4 hence
showing the repeatability of the information. Furthermore the information gathered is from the third
edition of the textbook, suggesting amendments have been made to the older versions and thus the
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secondary source can be interpreted as up to date. There is significant repetition of information in


both 1 (online scientific article) and 2 (textbook) and these sources are both from reputable
publishers i.e. the online article is a Gov. Website and the textbook from a reputable publishing
company, hence these secondary sources can be judged reliable. However, the website (4) used has a
URL with .com and these websites are not considered reliable since they usually have biased opinions.
However, it was still used for this discussion since the information provided crossed with much more
reliable sources and had a valid contribution to this collective source of information.

1 Roddy, D.J, 2012. Introduction to Alternative Sources. Biomass in a Petrochemical World, [Online]. 1 of 9, 24. Available
at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3638281/# [Accessed 14 March 2016].
2 Tregarthen, L.T, 2007. HSC Chemistry. 1st ed. 15-19 Claremont Street, South Yarra 3141: Macmillan Education Australian

PTY LTD.
3 Smith, R.S, 2000. Conquering Chemistry HSC Course. 3rd ed. Australia: McGraw-Hill Book Company Australia Pty Limited.
4 Matt Schiller. 2013. Need for Petrochemical Alternatives. [ONLINE] Available

at:http://www.easychem.com.au/production-of-materials/biomass-research/need-for-petrochemical-alternatives.
[Accessed 15 March 16].

Question 2:
Biopolymer: Naturally occurring biological polymers which are generally biodegradable.

Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) is a biopolymer that is produced from the bacterial organism known as
Alcaligenes Eutrophus. The Bacteria is placed in a rich medium allowing them to grow in large numbers and
the bacterial colony is then placed in a nitrogen deficient environment with high quantities of carbon. These
conditions promote the storage of carbon in the form of the desired plastic PHB which can then be extracted
from the colony through hot trichloromethane.

Fig 3. A molecular structure for the linear chain of PHB:

Chemical composition:

[-COCH2CH (CH3) O-] or [C4H6O2] n

- PHB is a member of the polyhydroxyalkanoates, a


polymer of polyesters

Advantages Disadvantages
- Has many desirable properties such as the - Production process too expensive and large
biopolymer being renewable, colonies of bacteria are needed
biodegradable, biocompatible, non-toxic, - Can also become thermally unstable which
and easily moulded, it also exhibits decreases production efficiency
thermoplastic properties. - Stiff and brittle which limits the widespread
- PHB has potential applications in medicine use in industry
as skin grafts, surgical implants and seam
threads for wounds.
- Can be used as disposable nappies and bags
and even microcapsules in therapy.
- Due to its biodegradable property it can be
considered environmentally sustainable.

Judgement on Potential:
PHB is a highly potential resource for the future as it exhibits many desirable properties that the currently
used plastics derived from petrochemicals do not offer. Its biodegradable nature and potential to be used
within the medical field makes it highly wanted and anticipated. However the disadvantages of the biopolymer
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and the negatives of the production process, outweigh the current advantages. With a more suitable approach
to the production of Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate with suitable technological advancements to production
methods, PHB would be then have a greater potential to be used for extensive purposes.

Question 3:

Hydrolysis for
Sugar Cane Sugar and Acid
cellulose 1000C
Solution
for 2 hours

Simplified outline of process steps:

1. Sugar cane is ground and crushed


before undergoing acid digestion Gypsum Neutralisation
for two hours. This creates a sugar of Acid
and acid solution which is
neutralised using hydroxide.
2. The sugar is fermented with yeast
to produce dilute ethanol
solution. This produces 15% Sugar Solution (Sugar Molasse)
ethanol solution
3. Distillation is used to produce
greater concentrations (95%)
dehydration or absorption process
is used

Fermentation (Yeast of
Ethanol GM. E.coli)
Distillation Mixture 15%
6 12 6 22 5 ()
+ 22()

Ethanol

Relation to other Ideas and Scientific Principles

1. Fermentation: is the process in which glucose is broken down to ethanol and carbon-dioxide by the
action of yeast (zymase).The fermentation reaction that takes place once the sugar solution has been
obtained from the neutralisation of the acid can be shown as;
6 12 6 22 5 () + 22()
However fermentation has a number of commercial applications, in particular for food preparation and
processing. In some cases, antibiotics and other drugs can be prepared by fermentation is no other
commercially efficient method is available. 3, 5
2. Distillation: Is used to separate liquids from non-volatile solids, as in the separation of alcoholic
liquors from fermented materials.
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With the production of Ethanol it is impossible to use simple distillation to produce ethanol at concentrations
higher than 95.6%. For more concentrated ethanol solutions to be produced drying agents such as anhydrous
Calcium Chloride which physically absorbs water can be used. However these solutions must be stored and
handled carefully, because otherwise they absorb water vapour from the air until they reach the 95.6%
azeotropic concentration. The boiling point of a mixture of 95.6% ethanol (by weight) with 4.4% water is 78.1
C, which is lower than the boiling point of pure water (100 C) or pure ethanol (78.4 C). Because the
azeotropic mixture boils at a lower temperature.6

3 Smith, R.S, 2000. Conquering Chemistry HSC Course. 3rd ed. Australia: McGraw-Hill Book Company Australia Pty Limited.
5 Baum, Stuart J., and Charles W. J. Scaife. Chemistry: A Life Science Approach. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company,
Inc., 1975, Chapter 28.
6 Make: We are all Makers. 2009. Distillation: Purify Ethanol.http://makezine.com/laboratory-62-distillation-purify-e/.

[Accessed 21 March 16].

Question 4:
Microbial Fuel cells:
A microbial fuel cell (MFC) is a bio-electrochemical device that harnesses the power of respiring microbes to
convert organic substrates directly into electrical energy. At its core, the MFC is a fuel cell, which transforms
chemical energy into electricity using oxidation reduction reactions.7However it relies on living biocatalysts to
facilitate the movement of electrons throughout their systems

Uses of Microbial Fuel Cells:

- MFCs can also be utilised in powering underwater monitoring devices. These provide analytical data on the
natural environment which can be crucial to understanding and developing ecosystem responses. However,
these sensors distributed in the natural environment require considerable amounts of power for operation.
Microbial Fuel Cells can possibly be used to power such devices, especially in deep-water ecosystems where
human access is routinely difficult. The micro-organisms which inhabit these deep environments would work
to produce electrical energy through oxidation reactions of the compounds found in these deep environments.
- Microbial Fuel Cells are being considered to produce electrical power in the course of treatment of industrial,
agricultural, and municipal wastewater. When micro-organisms naturally oxidise organic compounds present
in waste water, electrons are released which yields a steady stream of electron current. If the power generation
through these naturally occurring systems can be increased, Microbial Fuel Cells may provide a more
environmentally and economically sustainable alternative to current water management systems. This may
offset operating costs of waste water treatment plants, making water treatment plants more affordable in
developing and industrialised nations.

Fig 3. Principle of MFC;


Shows how MFC works, this
example is relevant for
management of underwater
devices.

Advantages8,9 Disadvantages8,9
- Generation of energy out of bio- - Low power density; the maximum potential of nearly
waste/organic matter ; this is 1V can be expected in MFCs and this is not much
environmentally advantageous greater than the 0.7V that is currently produced.
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- Direct conversion of substrate - High initial cost


energy to electricity (energy - Upscaling problems ; the scaling up of MFCs require
efficient) better understanding of the effects of reactor
- The micro-organisms in a architecture and operation mode on volumetric
microbial fuel cell harnessing the power densities
full potential of the organic - Activation losses; due to the activation energy
compounds which they oxidise, needed for and Oxidation/Reduction reaction,
making MFCs efficient in their activation losses occur during the transfer of
functioning. electrons.

Conclusion and Evaluation of success


MFC is an ideal way to generate electricity since it is not only as a renewable source but it can also be used to
treat waste. It can also be used to produce secondary fuel sources, and MFC is evolving to become a simple,
robust form of technology. Particularly in the field of wastewater treatment, application can be foreseen as
successful at market value prices. However, to increase the power output, many technological improvements
are required. In years to come, MFCs may possibly qualify as new core technology to convert carbohydrates
into electricity, provided biological understanding increases.

Judgement on relevance of information:


The information gathered to answer the question provided varies in range of sources. To determine
the relevance of the information, the validity, reliability and accuracy of the information must be taken into
account.
Validity in terms of this task can be defined as how applicable the information provided is to answer
the question. Reliability is how repeatable the information is across the various sources and accuracy in terms
of this task can be determined by establishing whether the information is from reputable sources. When all
three of these factors contribute positively together the information can be deemed relevant to this question.
The sources of information used to answer this question were websites and a scientific (online)
journal. The information these sources provided were relevant as they were valid and answered the question
addressed in a detailed manner. Furthermore other information gathered was evident through other sources
which show the reliability of the information and furthermore the information provided was written/published
by reputable authors, i.e. engineers/ research-specialised scientists. Hence it can be concluded the information
was relevant to this particular task. However Fig 3 did not particularly answer the question. It allowed us to
understand the structural composition of an MFC and its principles, since the diagram alone did not aid in
answering the question it can be deemed not valid and hence irrelevant.
Overall the majority of the information gathered and presented can be assessed as relevant, except
Fig 3 which although accurate based on cross-referencing of multiple sources, is not particularly valid to
answer this question, hence irrelevant.

7Alternative Energy. 2013. What are Microbial Fuel Cells? http://www.altenergy.org/renewables/what-are-microbial-fuel-


cells.html. [Accessed 24 March 16].
8 Penn State College of Engineering. 2010. Microbial Fuel Cells.

http://www.research.psu.edu/capabilities/documents/MFC_QandA.pdf. [Accessed 15 March 16].


9 Evelyn, Evelyn; Li, Y; Marshall, A and Gostkowski, P. Ethanol oxidation in a microbial fuel cell (MFC) utilising various

mediators and potential integration of a MFC into an anaerobic bio filtration system [online]. In: Chemeca 2012: Quality of
life through chemical engineering: 23-26 September 2012, Wellington, New Zealand. Barton, A.C.T.: Engineers Australia,
2012: [1204]-[1213]. http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=865248895085124;res=IELENG 107596.
[Accessed 28 Mar 16]
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Bibliography:
Textbooks:

- Baum, Stuart J., and Charles W. J. Scaife. Chemistry: A Life Science Approach. New York: Macmillan
Publishing Company, Inc., 1975, Chapter 28.
- Smith, R.S, 2000. Conquering Chemistry HSC Course. 3rd ed. Australia: McGraw-Hill Book Company
Australia Pty Limited.
- Tregarthen, L.T, 2007. HSC Chemistry. 1st ed. 15-19 Claremont Street, South Yarra 3141: Macmillan
Education Australian PTY LTD.

Scientific Journals:

- Nebra, S, 2012. Conventional Ethanol and electricity production process from sugarcane. Ethanol
production by enzymatic hydrolysis from sugarcane biomass the integration with the conventional
process.http://www.academia.edu/1798035/Ethanol_production_by_enzymatic_hydrolysis_from_su
garcane_biomass_the_integration_with_the_conventional_process[Accessed 23 March 2016].
- Evelyn, Evelyn; Li, Y; Marshall, A and Gostkowski, P. Ethanol oxidation in a microbial fuel cell (MFC)
utilising various mediators and potential integration of a MFC into an anaerobic bio filtration system
[online]. In: Chemeca 2012: Quality of life through chemical engineering: 23-26 September 2012,
Wellington, New Zealand. Barton, A.C.T.: Engineers Australia, 2012: [1204]-[1213].
http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=865248895085124;res=IELENG 107596.
[Accessed 28 Mar 16].

Online Articles:

- Khanna, S, 2005. A simple structured mathematical model for biopolymer (PHB) production.
Biotechnology Progress, [Online]. 3, 830-838.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15932263 [Accessed 27 March 2016].

Websites:

- Alan Davison, Alternative Energy. 2013. What are Microbial Fuel Cells?
http://www.altenergy.org/renewables/what-are-microbial-fuel-cells.html. [Accessed 24 March 16].
- David. E. Newton. 2016. Fermentation- Uses.http://science.jrank.org/pages/2677/Fermentation-
Uses.html. [Accessed 23 March 16].
- Make: We are all Makers. 2009. Distillation: Purify Ethanol.http://makezine.com/laboratory-62-
distillation-purify-e/. [Accessed 21 March 16].
- Matt Schiller. 2013. Need for Petrochemical Alternatives.:http://www.easychem.com.au/production-
of-materials/biomass-research/need-for-petrochemical-alternatives. [Accessed 15 March 16].
- Robert Abegg. 2011. Biopolymer. http://www.chemistrylearner.com/biopolymer.html. [Accessed 14
March 16].
- Royal Society of Chemistry; Jessica Gwynne. 2016. Polyhydroxybutyrate.
http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/podcast/CIIEcompounds/transcripts/polyhydroxybutyrate.asp.
[Accessed 21 March 16].

Videos:

- LetsLearnScience. (2011). Production of ethanol from sugar cane (HSC chemistry). [27 December.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8UrDvLBsJw. [Accessed: 17 March 2016].