From Trash to Treasure: Scientists Turn Plastic Bottles and Bags Into Liquid Fuel

By: | June 25th, 2016

Did you know our factories produce about 100 million tons of plastics each year? These polyethylene-based plastics are composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms linked together in long chains, and they don’t degrade easily in the environment. Therefore, they are piling up in landfills and are polluting oceans.

Scientists have been working to find a method to degrade plastics that doesn’t require a lot of heat or other energy sources, and which creates a cleaner product.

In a big breakthrough, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of California have found a way to turn plastic trash into liquid fuel. This research is published in the journal Science Advances. It is very significant as the process involved requires less energy and creates a purer end product than other methods. Moreover, it offers an efficient way of turning plastic trash into treasure and will help in reducing the amount of plastics that litter the planet.

How Researchers Managed to Achieve This

The method involves mixing the plastics with an organometallic catalyst (a small, commercially available organic molecule doped with the metal iridium). This reaction weakens bonds responsible for polyethylene’s stiff structure. After this, the team used this breakdown to create a diesel-like fuel.The team also claims that burning this fuel is cleaner than burning other combustible materials.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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