An elevation in the recycling rate of plastic and preventing it from becoming an eternal garbage in the environment would require an increase in its economic value of reuse, which provides incentive for the public in recycling. A recent research of the Washington State University has indicated that a new technology may slightly increase the reuse value of plastic, and is able to transform the material into an ingredient for jet aircraft fuel within an hour.
Plastic, through a catalytic reaction, is restored into hydrocarbon, which is an organic compound formed with hydrogen and carbon, and can be used as the foundation for various fuels, transformed into aviation fuel, or other economic chemicals. The research team of the Washington State University is currently attempting to transform polyethylene materials, including shopping bags and shampoo bottles, into hydrocarbon.
The research team uses a simpler method that produces a catalyst using carbon and silver white metal, and adds in common solvents, before using a high temperature of 220°C to transform roughly 90% of the plastic into jet aircraft fuel and other hydrocarbons within an hour. The experiment requires a much lower stability than 500°C in the past, which is friendlier to both the equipment and cost.
In addition, the research team also discovered that an adjustment on the temperature, dosage of the catalyst, and time will derive other high-value products such as lubricant.
Hongfei Lin, research author, commented that various products can be formulated according to the market demand from the highly flexible experiment, which allows polyethylene to be transformed from waste to gold, and recycled into valuable products.
Researchers are now trying to expand on the scale of the process, and have their eyes set on commercializing the technology, while also hoping to adjust it in order for it to suit other plastic wastes. Lin pointed out that recycling cost is a major key for the industry, and this research can be regarded as a milestone for the commercialization of the invention.
(photo source: WSU)