Researchers at Washington State University have developed an excellent innovation that turns plastic into jet fuel and other valuable products. This is a groundbreaking discovery that will take reusing plastics to a whole different level.
The researchers converted 90% of the plastic into jet fuel and other valuable hydrocarbon products within just an hour. The research project was led by Ph.D. student Chuhua Jia and Hongfei Lin, Associate Professor at the School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering Jin and Linda Voiland. The findings of their work were published in Chem Catalysis.
Of late, the news has been strewn with finding microplastics in even food, making it a threat to human health. Although scientists have grappled with the problem of processing and reusing plastic, the path was never unproblematic.
One of the most common processing methods was to melt plastic and then re-mold it into something else; however, this process takes away the economic value and the quality of the plastic for its use in other products. Another method is chemical processing, but it requires high reaction temperatures and long processing times, making the process expensive. As per a few reports, only 9% of the plastic in the US is recycled each year.
The researchers have developed a new catalytic process that converts polyethylene into jet fuel and valuable lubricants. Polyethylene is the most commonly used plastic to be found almost in every household items. For the newly developed catalytic process, the researchers made use of a ruthenium-carbon catalyst and a commonly used solvent that transforms plastic into jet fuel at 220 degrees.
The researchers have mentioned that they have a long way to go and that they need to fine-tune the adjusting processing conditions such as temperature, time, or the amount of catalyst used.