The technology, which was developed at Purdue University, can convert more than 90% of polypropylene waste – a type of plastic that is commonly used for packaging and toys – into high-quality gasoline and diesel fuels in a matter of hours.
The conversion process uses selective extraction and hydrothermal liquefaction to turn the plastic into naphtha, a kind of flammable oil that can then be used as a feedstock for other chemicals or further separated into specialty solvents or other products.
The clean fuels derived from the plastic waste generated each year could satisfy 4% of the annual demand for gasoline or diesel fuels.
"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," said Linda Wang, a professor for chemical engineering at Purdue University and leader of the research team developing the technology. "Our conversion technology has the potential to boost the profits of the recycling industry and shrink the world's plastic waste stock."
Some results of Wang's study were published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering last month.