Powering the Future

Recycling to reduce waste and protect the environment isn’t a new idea. However, a new process may be able to recycle up to 25% of our plastic waste into fuel, according to the Science Alert website. Chemists at Purdue University have been able to liquefy the polymers that make up about a quarter of plastic waste and turn it into diesel-like products that can be used as a basis for fuel.

The process, called hydrothermal liquefaction, involves heating water under heavy pressure to work as a solvent and catalyst for transforming the molecular makeup of polymers. With the addition of some hydrogen atoms, this converts the plastic into a fluid called naphtha.

Previous results were disappointing, but the Purdue team of chemical engineers recently converted more than 90% of the polypropylene used in an experiment into fuel-grade naphtha. Further analysis suggests that the process could be a more efficient and environmentally friendly way of dealing with plastic waste than burning it or recycling it.

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