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Converting PE waste into liquid fuels and waxes

By Paul Grad |

Each year, a large amount of plastic waste is generated, with 60% of the total plastic content of municipal solid waste composed of high-, low- and linear-low density polyethylene (HDPE, LDPE and LLDPE) and polypropylene (PP). Existing methods for degrading such plastics have not been completely satisfactory, either because they required fairly high temperatures (above 400°C), or because they led to the formation of unwanted substances with poor product control. Now, an efficient and inexpensive method for the degradation of PEs into liquid fuels and waxes has been reported by a research group from the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences (www.sioc.ac.cn) led by Zheng Huang, in collaboration with the group of professor Zhibin Guan at the University of California at Irvine (www.uci.edu). The new method involves a tandem-catalytic, cross-alkane metathesis process, whereby one catalyst is used for alkane dehydrogenation and another catalyst for olefin metathesis. First, an iridium-based dehydrogenation catalyst removes hydrogen from both PE and a light alkane in a sealed system to form unsaturated species and Ir-H2. Next, a rhenium olefin-metathesis catalyst scrambles the alkanes, resulting in the breakdown…
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