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Dr. Rafael Quirino

Making Plastics out of Vegetable Oil

Renewable resources are proving to be immensely useful in a society looking for cheaper, faster and better materials, and are the focus of research for Georgia Southern’s Rafael Quirino, Ph.D.

Quirino is assistant professor of Organic Chemistry at Georgia Southern, where he conducts original research focused on the utility of renewable molecules and bio-based thermosetting materials — plastics that will not melt — for everyday use.

In his research, Quirino has found a way to make these valuable materials from vegetable oils, which he combines with tiny tubes of carbon atoms called carbon nanotubes, or CNTs. These CNTs can be used to combine smaller molecules into larger, chainlike molecules, which can be used in a variety of ways previously only possible with petroleum-based methods.

Quirino says his passion for the chemistry of vegetable oils began as an undergraduate student, and he appreciates using his lab as a place to pass on his passion and knowledge to the undergraduates at Georgia Southern.

“It is very rewarding when you deal with interested students that honestly want to learn what you have to teach,” he said. “The feeling of being able to help someone develop his or her perception of a subject is very good. Personally, I feel accomplished when I feel like I am at least partially responsible for helping students grasp a subject they initially thought was very hard or unsurmountable. It’s nice to hear students saying, ‘Oh, that actually isn’t that hard.’ It gives me the impression that I was successful in passing the knowledge on.”

Quirino obtained his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Master of Science in Physical Chemistry from the University of Brasilia, Brazil. He earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry and did his post-doctoral work in materials science at Iowa State University.

Businesses seeking expert consulting in the use of CNTs, or the fields of renewable molecules, thermoplastic resin or thermosetting resin may contact BIG for further information.

Posted in Entrepreneur Spotlight, Research, Teaching and Learning

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