Scientists create method that converts plastic to fuel – News

Scientists from the Plastics Innovation Group at University of Delaware, in the United States, they created a method capable of transforming plastic, which is a derivative of petroleum, into other products also of fossil origin. You results of the experiment were published in the journal Science last Wednesday (21).

Laboratory tests were able to convert single-use plastic waste, such as plastic bags, yogurt containers and plastic bottles, into molecules ready for use as fuels and lubricants that would be produced from oil.

This type of process fits in what is called circular economy, which happens when products that are no longer useful are transformed into something new and allowing a reuse of the raw material used in the manufacture of the item. In this way, something that has been discarded can be used several times and enter a reuse cycle.

“Plastic waste is a serious environmental problem. As this circular economy progresses, the world will need to produce less original plastics because we will be reusing materials made in the present in the future ”, said Andrew Danielson, one of the study’s authors and majoring in Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, in a statement released by the institution education.

The research presents a new catalyst that can accelerate the breakdown of plastics that have a longer recycling process, known as polyolefins. This type of polymer represents between 60% and 70% of all plastics produced today.

In addition, the process requires 50% of the use of energy normally used to recycle this type of product and does not release carbon dioxide in the atmofesta, a topic widely debated among authorities around the world.

The new method developed by researchers from the North American University can also transform the plastic waste that is mixed in other products, all of this at a temperature of approximately 250 ° C, considered low for carrying out similar processes.

To make this transformation, scientists used a chemical process called hydrocracking to break solid waste from plastic into smaller carbon molecules. After that, hydrogen molecules were added, stabilizing the material for future use.

A very similar process is done by oil refineries, however, the newly developed technique converts the material into branched molecules, allowing the plastic to be converted into the final product directly and, consequently, faster.

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This speed is the result of the use of a different combination of two catalysts, products used to accelerate chemical reactions. Scientists at the Plastic Innovation Center used zeolites and mixed metal oxides to optimize the process, substances known to create branched molecules and break down large molecules, respectively.

“Alone, these two catalysts work poorly. Their combination works magic, melting the plastics and leaving nothing behind. In addition, these are easy-to-find materials, so we can start thinking quickly about how to use technology in large-scale processes, ”said Dion Vlachos, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware and one of the study’s authors.

* Intern R7 under the supervision of Pablo Marques

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