By David Reed, UT EditorGülzow, Germany-Dow Germany GmbH and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology have successfully demonstrated the production of polyols from sugars and their use in making polyurethanes.The process - the catalytic hydrothermolysis of low-molecular carbohydrates such as glucose, fructose, xylose and saccharose in over- and sub-critical water - gave the desired short-chain polyalcohols, according to a statement from the FNR (Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe, Agency of Renewable Resources), the agency responsible for the project under the German Federal Ministry for consumer protection, nutrition and agriculture. The best results were obtained with a ruthenium catalyst at temperatures between 150 and 250°C, the statement added.This opens up a completely new raw material basis for plastic manufacture, the statement asserted, adding that carbohydrates are readily obtained from plants such as sugar beet, which is widely cultivated in Germany. The material is also less subject to strong price fluctuations than petrochemical raw materials, the statement claimed.The procedure will now be examined at pilot scale, the FNR indicated, adding that research is also needed with high-molecular carbohydrates. Economic aspects could be improved, if starch or cellulose could be converted using the reductive hydrothermolysis. So far with these raw materials, however, the desired conversions have not been achieved, the FNR statement said.Further information contact: Fax +49 (0)38 43/69 30-1 02; E-Mail: [email protected]"