Fuel from plastic waste
Cross-alkane metathesis holds promise to recycle soft plastic
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.
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.