ADVERTISEMENT
2 /3 FREE ARTICLES LEFT THIS MONTH Remaining
Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.

If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.

ENJOY UNLIMITED ACCES TO C&EN

Synthesis

Metathesis is a degrading experience for plastics

Mild reaction breaks down polyethylene waste into liquid fuels and waxes

by Stu Borman
June 20, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 25

Researchers have developed a cross-alkane metathesis process that breaks down polyethylene waste into liquid fuels and waxes under mild conditions. Polyethylene is the largest-volume plastic worldwide and a major source of plastic waste. One option for addressing the waste problem is to convert polyethylene to useful breakdown products, but it is chemically inert and difficult to degrade efficiently. High-temperature pyrolysis works, but it’s expensive and forms complex mixtures of hydrocarbon gas, oil, wax, and char. Mild recycling reactions have been developed, but they use reactive radical reactions that are hard to carry out or generate mostly methane and ethane, demand for which is limited. Zhibin Guan of the University of California, Irvine, Zheng Huang of the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry, and coworkers have now developed a mild cross-alkane metathesis process that degrades polyethylenes into more useful liquid fuels and waxes (Sci. Adv. 2016, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501591). In the process, polyethylene and a readily available light alkane are dehydrogenated to form olefins. An olefin metathesis reaction then scrambles those olefins and breaks down the long chains. Finally, hydrogenation forms alkanes. Multiple cycles of the reactions degrade polyethylene into short alkanes appropriate for use as transportation fuels and waxes.

X

Article:

This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment