Technical Papers Plastics
Generating biofuel by breaking down plastics using a low-cost catalyst

Generating biofuel by breaking down plastics using a low-cost catalyst

A method for generating biofuel by breaking down plastics using a low-cost catalyst has been developed by a sixteen year old Egyptian student, Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad, from the Zahran Language School. This could be a boon as it converts the problem of plastics waste into a solution. Faiad has succeeded in converting plastic into fuel feedstocks - the bulk raw material for producing biofuel - by identifying a catalyst, calcium bentonite, for breaking down the plastic waste that is low in cost. When the waste is broken down, it produces gaseous products including methane, propane and ethane, which are then converted into ethanol for use as biofuel.
Breaking down plastic and polymers by heating them to higher temperatures is not a new idea, but the type of catalyst used is what gives the idea its strength. The project can be safely implemented, as it doesn't emit any toxic gases, as long as its implementation abides by the safety measures applied for similar projects. As catalysts are substances that accelerate chemical reactions without affecting the reaction chemically, Faiad tried different catalysts to see how they would affect the gaseous products that result from breaking down high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The experiments were conducted on three different types of catalysts - calcium bentonite, ammonium zeolite Y and DHC-8. The project idea is based on prioritizing gaseous outcomes rather than the liquid products. That is why the calcium bentonite catalyst has been chosen as the best one - experimentation proved that the calcium bentonite not only turned out to be more efficient in producing more gaseous products that are then used in generating biofuel, but is also cheaper than the other catalysts.

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