A greener method to cre­ate plas­tic

Chemical Industry Digest - - New Developments -

Re­searchers from the En­ergy Safety Re­search In­sti­tute (ESRI) at Swansea Univer­sity have de­vel­oped a new way to con­vert waste car­bon diox­ide into a mol­e­cule that is the ba­sic start­ing point of mak­ing plas­tic. This new method uses global eth­yl­ene that is de­rived from car­bon diox­ide, which is huge. It uti­lizes half a bil­lion tons of the car­bon that is emit­ted ev­ery year. This new devel­op­ment could off­set global car­bon emis­sions sig­nif­i­cantly.

Dr. En­rico An­dreoli, head of the CO₂ uti­liza­tion group at ESRI ex­plained, “Con­sid­er­able re­search fo­cuses on cap­tur­ing and stor­ing harm­ful car­bon diox­ide emis­sions. But an al­ter­na­tive to this is to use the cap­tured CO as a re­source

2 to make use­ful ma­te­ri­als. That’s why at Swansea we have con­verted waste car­bon diox­ide into a mol­e­cule called eth­yl­ene. Eth­yl­ene is one of the most widely used mol­e­cules in the chem­i­cal in­dus­try and is the start­ing ma­te­rial in the man­u­fac­ture of de­ter­gents, syn­thetic lu­bri­cants, and the vast ma­jor­ity of plas­tics like poly­eth­yl­ene, poly­styrene, and polyvinyl chlo­ride es­sen­tial to modern so­ci­ety.”

The cur­rent method of cre­at­ing eth­yl­ene is to use steam that comes from crack­ing oils. This method is de­pen­dent on fos­sil fu­els, which are harm­ful for the en­vi­ron­ment as well as a quickly di­min­ish­ing re­source. The CO₂ uti­liza­tion group uses CO₂ wa­ter and green elec­tric­ity in or­der to cre­ate a green process for pro­duc­ing eth­yl­ene at room tem­per­a­ture. The main part of the new process is a new cat­a­lyst. This cat­a­lyst is engi­neered to speed up the for­ma­tion of eth­yl­ene, as pub­lished in ACS Catal­y­sis.

“We have demon­strated that cop­per and a polyamide ad­di­tive can be com­bined to make an ex­cel­lent cat­a­lyst for CO 2 uti­liza­tion. The polyamide dou­bles the ef­fi­ciency of eth­yl­ene for­ma­tion achiev­ing one of the high­est rates of con­ver­sion ever recorded in stan­dard bi­car­bon­ate wa­ter so­lu­tions,” said Dr. An­dreoli.

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