Recovering Valuable Chemical Building Blocks from Polystyrene Waste
The newly developed “Degradation Upcycling” (Deg-Up for short) makes it possible to produce a wide array of highly valuable aromatic chemicals to be produced from polystyrene waste, as explained by Guoliang Liu and co-authors from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, USA, explain. The process involves a two-step cascade: in a first step, polystyrene is broken down to give benzene as main degradation product, and in a second step this benzene product is chemically modified in the same reactor. The process gives rise to benzene derivatives, covering many important substances for the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries.
Methods for breaking down polystyrene into benzene usually require expensive catalysts, are energy-intensive, or produce a complex mixture of products. Liu and colleagues’ new thermochemical method uses inexpensive aluminum chloride catalysts and can be performed in reactors at a moderate 80 °C (ca. 180 °F). Another advantage of their method is the clever use of the solvent, benzene. “Only the amount of benzene recovered from the polymer is converted into the desired chemical. Unused solvent can be recycled to process more polymer feed,” Liu says.
As a proof of concept, the team dissolved various types of polystyrene waste, such as packing peanuts and plastic utensils, in benzene, and heated the mixture in a reactor under air-free conditions with aluminum chloride as the only reagent. The liquid product, consisting primarily of benzene, could be used directly to obtain the desired value-added chemicals in high yield and with high selectivity.
For example, by adding the reagent acetyl chloride, the team obtained acetophenone, an important chemical in the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries. By adding the related reagent oxalyl chloride, the team obtained benzophenone, a common ingredient in sunscreen products and plastic additives. In addition, sulfur-containing aromatics, some of which are used as high-performance solvents in the polymer industry, were produced with a high degree of selectivity from polystyrene waste.
The goal of this new chemical upcycling method is to recycle large volumes of polystyrene waste into value-added chemicals for other industrial processes. Having a low density, polystyrene insulating materials are not well-suited to mechanical recycling, i.e., the process of sorting, shredding, and transportation of materials for the profitable manufacture of new products. The Deg-Up process described here, on the other hand, is robust, tolerant of contamination, and suitable as a platform for chemical upcycling of large-volume polystyrene waste.
Other news from the department science
Argonne and Idaho National Laboratories partner with CMBlu Energy for innovative long-duration energy storage project
The project aims to improve microgrids in cold climates and make fast charging of electric vehicles more affordable in underserved communities
Blue-green algae sugar instead of glyphosate
Cooperation project develops environmentally friendly glyphosate alternative
Using clay to combat eternal toxins
TU Freiberg clarifies basis for innovative PFAS filter made of clay
Unveiling a new era of imaging: Boston University engineers lead breakthrough microscopy techniques
Researchers made significant advancements in the field of vibrational imaging
Phasing out fossil fuels could save millions of lives
The mortality burden attributable to air pollution from fossil fuel use is considerably higher than most previous estimates - a phaseout of fossil fuels would have tremendous, positive health outcomes
Replicating the structure of bird feathers
The new material could be used in batteries or filtration
Quantum tool opens door to uncharted phenomena
Method can contribute to a better understanding of quantum materials
Recovering instead of shredding: recycling batteries more efficiently
KIT researchers are working with industry to develop a more sustainable recycling process to recycle materials from lithium-ion batteries more effectively
Industry 4.0: No impact on energy consumption?
To what extent does the digitalisation of industrial and manufacturing processes (Industry 4.0) improve energy efficiency and thus reduce energy intensity?
New approach to the sensible utilisation of carbon dioxide from car exhaust gases
"A method has been discovered that uses impure CO2 streams and enables a breakthrough in the synthesis of valuable chemicals and pharmaceuticals"
Boosting PET recycling with higher standards for laboratory experiments
New study shows how enzymatic plastic degradation could be brought one step closer to commercialisation
Innovating Optoelectronic Components with Phosphorus
Significant breakthrough: phosphorus chemists develop new method to selectively introduce phosphorus and nitrogen atoms into polyaromatic systems
Artificial intelligence finds ways to develop new drugs
The chemists tested the process using borylation – a reaction that activates hydrocarbon scaffolds
Most read news
Plastic-eating bacteria turn waste into useful starting materials for other products
Microbial Upcycling of Waste PET
Microbes could help reduce the need for chemical fertilizers
A coating protects nitrogen-fixing bacteria: Start-up to commercialise coated bacteria for large-scale use in regenerative agriculture
New designs for solid-state electrolytes may soon revolutionize the battery industry
Scientists achieve monumental improvements in lithium-metal-chloride solid-state electrolytes
Inauguration of the world’s first pilot plant for the cost-efficient production of green methanol
Start-up C1 Green Chemicals AG and research partners develop fundamentally new production process
Dow and Evonik announce startup of hydrogen peroxide to propylene glycol (HPPG) pilot plant
Innovative technology offer flexibility, lower costs, and a smaller environmental footprint
This is a battery
Two colored liquids bubbling through tubes: Is this what the battery of the future looks like?
Converting PFAS “forever chemicals” into valuable compounds
Scientists develop a new method to incorporate harmful perfluoroalkenes into N-heterocyclic carbene ligands
Not so silver lining: Microplastics found in clouds could affect the weather
Low-altitude and denser clouds contained greater amounts of microplastics
Graphene's proton permeability: A switch for future energy technologies
This discovery could lead to the development of more efficient hydrogen fuel cells and solar water-splitting devices
Lithium-ion batteries are no longer the gold standard in battery tech
On the way to safer and more powerful energy sources
CO2-free hydrogen: BASF receives funding approval for 54-megawatt water electrolysis plant
Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer expected to produce up to 8,000 metric tons of hydrogen per year
More news from our other portals
Bowel cancer: aspirin activates protective genes
Researchers have identified a signaling pathway by which aspirin can inhibit colorectal cancer.
Dunning-Kruger effect with muesli bars
Those who know the least consider themselves highly competent
Autonomous measuring instruments systematically detect new materials
A new algorithm measures materials libraries up to four times faster than before: It’s based on machine learning
New drug delivery system could reduce daily diabetes shots to just three a year
Dietary management drugs have transformed Type 2 diabetes care, but daily injection routines are challenging for some patients
Naked Clams: The New Superfood Sensation Emerging from the Depths
Researchers found Naked Clams contain almost twice the amount of Vitamin B12 as blue mussels and have developed an efficient way to farm them
Researchers discover new ultra strong material for microchip sensors
A material that doesn't just rival the strength of diamonds and graphene, but boasts a yield strength 10 times greater than Kevlar
Aston University technology to combat the not-so sweet practice of honey fraud
Light technology to be used to detect if honey is blended with cheap additions
How stem cells and immune cells communicate
Lisec Artz Award for Simon Haas: Groundbreaking discovery of an unknown protective mechanism against blood cancer from stem cells
Pushers, overcrowded trains and phone zombies
Sprite presents the world's first vending machine that responds to the things that bother Generation Z the most
Scientists use quantum biology, AI to sharpen genome editing tool
"This study represents an exciting advancement toward, understanding how we can avoid making costly ‘typos’ in an organism’s genetic code"
Tönnies Group launches first nationwide "Meat Climate Platform"
100 guests at the Future Forum for Agriculture
Viral Impostors: Breakthrough for Virus Research
The penetration of viruses into cells can now be tracked with unprecedented accuracy thanks to innovative design for pseudoviruses
From the trough to the plate - digitally calculated
Computer program "ConTrans" estimates how much of an undesirable substance is transferred from animal feed to food
Fatty acid factory filmed at work
High-resolution images provide new insights into cellular fatty acid production: Potential for medicine and biotechnology
Tracking down Environmental Toxins
Detection of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by interrupted energy transfer
Textbook knowledge turned on its head: 3-in-1 microorganism discovered
Newly multifunctional bacterial species
Are healthy foods automatically sustainable, too?
Perceptions about sustainability and healthy food choices are closely linked
The weight of pollution: exposure linked to obesity
Chronic exposure to environmental pollutants found to increase risk of cardiovascular disease
Could eating turkey ease colitis?
According to data in mice, extra tryptophan could reduce the risk of future colitis flares