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Catalytic process converts sorted waste into aromatic compounds

By Scott Jenkins |

The rising cost of landfilling trash creates a strong incentive to utilize the waste for saleable products. A recently piloted process is an example: the process can convert municipal solid waste (MSW) into a narrow range of valuable aromatic compounds. It depends on a two-component catalyst capable of first generating alcohols from synthesis gas (syngas), and then converting those to aromatic hydrocarbons. The process was first developed by Mark White, professor emeritus at Mississippi State University (Starkville, Miss.; www.msstate.edu), and has been licensed for commercialization to Epurga LLC (Baton Rouge, La.; www.epurga.com). An initial gasification step converts sorted trash or wood construction debris (or both) into syngas. After cleaning, the syngas is fed into a high-pressure (70 bars) reactor, where it passes over a catalyst consisting of molybdenum oxide (MoO 3) embedded inside a zeolite material (H-ZSM-5). The MoO3 promotes conversion of syngas into alcohols, such as ethanol and propanol. The zeolite promotes reactions converting them into aromatic compounds, while the pore structure restricts the molecular weight (MW) distribution to ~78–160 g/mol. Major products include toluene, xylenes and trimethyl benzene —…
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