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Researcher develops new process to make silica from rice hull ash

Richard Laine, a materials science and engineering professor at the University of Michigan, has developed a new process to produce silica from agricultural waste including rice hull ash. According to Mr. Laine, the new process uses ethylene glycol and ethanol combined with sodium hydroxide to weaken the chemical bonds between the silica and the rice hull ash, dissolving the silica into a liquid solution. The liquid silica is distilled from the solution and processed into precipitated silica appropriate for industrial use. The process costs approximately 90% less than the current process, with virtually no carbon footprint. Mr. Laine has formed a company Mayasil (Ann Arbor, MI), to commercialize the technology. The company is building a pilot plant to test the process.

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