Fuel from plas­tic waste

Cross-alkane metathe­sis holds prom­ise to re­cy­cle soft plas­tic

The Witness - Wheels - - INDUSTRY -

RE­SEARCHERS from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine, and the Shang­hai In­sti­tute of Or­ganic Chem­istry (SIOC) in China an­nounced they have devel­oped a new way of re­cy­cling mil­lions of tons of plas­tic garbage into liq­uid fuel.

The team’s find­ings were pub­lished re­cently in Science Ad­vances. “Syn­thetic plas­tics are a fun­da­men­tal part of mod­ern life, but our use of them in large vol­ume has cre­ated se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems,” said UCI chemist Zhibin Guan.

“Our goal through this re­search was to ad­dress the is­sue of plas­tic pol­lu­tion as well as achiev­ing a ben­e­fi­cial out­come of cre­at­ing a new source of liq­uid fuel.”

Guan and Zheng Huang, his col­lab­o­ra­tor at SIOC, to­gether with their col­leagues have fig­ured out how to break down the strong bonds of poly­eth­yl­ene, the most com­mon com­mer­cially avail­able form of plas­tic. Com­pared to other meth­ods cur­rently used to re­cy­cle plas­tic bags and bot­tles, which in­clude caus­tic chem­i­cals and high heat ovens, the new tech­nique is both chem­i­cally gen­tle and en­ergy ef­fec­tive.

The tech­nique uses spe­cific types of hy­dro­car­bon mol­e­cules — called alka­nes — to de­grade plas­tics in a process known as cross-alkane metathe­sis.

Iron­i­cally, the sub­stances needed for this new greener method of re­duc­ing plas­tic waste are byprod­ucts from oil refin­ing, mak­ing the fos­sil fuel sec­tor a steady sup­plier of its clean-up chem­i­cals.

Guan said the U.S.-China joint team are still work­ing on a few is­sues to make it more ef­fi­cient. That in­cludes in­creas­ing the cat­a­lyst ac­tiv­ity and life­time, de­creas­ing the cost, and de­vel­op­ing cat­alytic pro­cesses to turn other plas­tic trash into trea­sure.

— Wheels Re­porter.

PHOTO: BLOG.CON­SER­VA­TION.ORG

Re­searchers at three uni­ver­si­ties say they have found a way to re­cy­cle into fuel and wax the mil­lions of dis­carded plas­tic con­tain­ers cur­rently lit­ter­ing the oceans.

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