Researchers have developed a process to convert polyolefin waste into polymers and fuels at Purdue University in Indiana. According to the research, the chemical conversion process could transform the world’s polyolefin waste by changing it into useful products. Linda Wang, Kai Jin and Wan-Ting Chen are the inventors of the technology which can convert more than 90 per cent of polyolefin waste into many different products, including pure polymers, naphtha, fuels, or monomers. The team is collaborating with Gozdem Kilaz, from Purdue’s School of Engineering Technology, and her doctoral research assistant Petr Vozka, to optimise the conversion process to produce high-quality gasoline or diesel fuels.
The conversion process incorporates selective extraction and hydrothermal liquefaction, and once the plastic is converted into naphtha, it can be used as a feedstock for other chemicals or further separated into specialty solvents or other products. The clean fuels derived from the polyolefin waste generated each year can satisfy four per cent of the annual demand for gasoline or diesel fuels.
Wang, who is the Maxine Spencer Nichols Professor in the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering at Purdue, said: “Our strategy is to create a driving force for recycling by converting polyolefin waste into a wide range of valuable products, including polymers, naphtha, or clean fuels.”“Our conversion technology has the potential to boost the profits of the recycling industry and shrink the world’s plastic waste stock.”