Scientists from Plastic Innovation Group University of Delaware, In the United States, he created a method capable of replacing plastics, which are derivatives of petroleum, among other products also of fossil origin. You The 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 to be used as fuel and lubricants originating from oil.
Such a process is called circular economy, which occurs when products that are no longer useful turn into something new and allow reuse of raw materials used in the manufacture of the item. In this way, something that has been discarded can be used multiple times and enter a reuse cycle.
“Plastic waste is a serious environmental problem. As this circular economy has progressed, the world will need to produce less original plastic because we will reuse the materials currently made in the future, ”said Andrew Danielson, one of the authors of the study and Delaware Studying in Chemical Engineering at the University. In a statement issued by the institution Education.
The research presents a new catalyst that can accelerate the breakdown of plastics that have a long recycling process, known as polyofins. This type of polymer represents between 60% and 70% of all plastics produced today.
In addition, the process typically requires 50% of the energy used to recycle this type of product and does not release carbon dioxide in Atomofasta, which is widely used among authorities around the world. Is the subject of debate.
The new method, developed by researchers at North American University, can also transform mixed plastic waste into other products, all of which are thought to be low enough to carry out similar processes, at temperatures of around 250 ° C.
To make this change, scientists used a chemical process called hydrocarbons to break down solid waste from plastics into small carbon molecules. After that, hydrogen molecules were added, stabilizing the material for future use.
A similar process is carried out by oil refineries, however, the newly developed technology converts the material into branched molecules, allowing the plastic to be converted directly into the final product and, consequently, faster.
This motion is the result of the use of two catalysts, a different combination of products used to accelerate chemical reactions. Scientists at the Plastic Innovation Center used zeolites and mixed metal oxides to optimize the process, substances that are known to form bronchodules and break down large molecules, respectively.
“Alone, these two catalysts do poorly. Their combination works magic, to melt the plastic and leave nothing behind. In addition, these are easy-to-find materials, so we can quickly start thinking about how to use technology in large-scale processes, ”said Diane Vlachos, professor of chemical engineering and studies at the University of Delaware Is one of the authors.
* Intern R7 Under the supervision of Pablo Marques