Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh may have just discovered a way to turn “light alkanes” (i.e. propane, butane) into raw plastics that is cheaper than cracking ethane. At least, that’s what we think they’ve discovered. It’s hard to tell. In a research paper recently published titled, “Structure–Activity Relationships in Alkane Dehydrogenation on ?-Al2O3: Site-Dependent Reactions,” Pitt researchers say they’ve discovered a way to produce olefins using “the nonoxidative dehydrogenation of alkanes on metal oxides, taking advantage of the Lewis acid?base surface functionalities of the oxides.” Er, right. What we do know is that the Pitt researchers are excited about their discovery, and say, “We now have a better tool to develop active catalysts for alkane-olefin conversion, which could be a game-changer in the petrochemical and polymer industries.” Below is a write-up from Pitt about the new research, in lay language, along with an abstract from the paper.