Plastic waste turned into fuel
Chemists were able to convert plastic into hydrogen and other useful substances. Developed reaction proceeds under the action of sunlight, and the resulting hydrogen can then be used as fuel. The paper was published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.
“We want to use non-recyclable waste to receive something useful, says study co-author Moritz Kuehnel from Swansea University (UK). Even if we use biodegradable plastic, from which the waste remains contained in it the energy is lost”.
Chemists have developed a process called photoreporting for which it is necessary to put a special catalyst on the plastic object and submerge it in an alkaline solution. Under the action of light from the solution, hydrogen is released and the plastic is oxidized to small organic molecules.
The authors have tested the process on three common types of plastics: polylactide, polyethylene terephthalate and polyurethane. The hydrogen yield roughly corresponded to the modern photocatalytic systems that use expensive consumables.
One of the main advantages of the new method is insensitive to contamination, while other ways of recycling plastic material requires a high purity of the material, and when the remains of food or oil, they cease to work effectively.
The authors demonstrated that the advantage of the example of a dirty plastic bottle. The efficiency was comparable with the results of the pure polymers.
Currently, chemists are working to scale the methodology and to adapt it for other types of waste.