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Scientists Manage To Upcycle Polyethylene Into High-Quality Liquid Products

October 25, 2019: 12:00 AM EST
A group of scientists has upcycled polyethylene into high quality liquid plastics, raising the prospect of plastics that are more sustainable. The scientists from a number of US universities and institutions succeeded in catalytically transforming by hydrogenolysis energy-rich polyethylene macromolecules into value-added products that could be re-purposed for motor oils, lubricants, detergents and even cosmetics.

The authors of the study point out that plastics have many advantages – being strong, inexpensive and sterile – that are hard to replicate. Currently 380 million tons of plastics are produced worldwide each year (about 7% of crude oil and natural gas produced) and the plastic market is projected to quadruple by 2050 to ~1100-1500 million tons per year. With over 75% of plastics discarded after a single-use, the potential for an upcycling process is enormous. 

While this study was limited to laboratory conditions, it formed the basis of two patent applications (US Patent Applications 62/796,482 and 62/892,347).[Image Credit: © stux from Pixabay]
"PAPER: Upcycling Single-Use Polyethylene into High-Quality Liquid Products", ACS Central Science, October 25, 2019, © American Chemical Society
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