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Waste to Wealth

Researchers Turn Plastic Waste into Fuel

| Author / Editor: Ashok Sharma / Dominik Stephan

From the beginning on, it was clear that the new technology had to encompass the following visions:

  • Sustainable process
  • Commercially profitable
  • Environment friendly
  • Socially responsible

The Solution: Catalytic De–Polymerization

All hydrocarbon materials predominantly consist of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Petroleum gases are the lightest of hydrocarbon molecules. The liquids like jet fuel, kerosene, diesel, petrol etc. have short chain medium range molecular structures and the long chain hydrocarbon materials form various petrochemical solids, such as LDPE, HDPE, PP, PS, PET, PC, ABS, etc. All these solids are extensively used as packaging materials as they offer excellent economy of operation. Incidentally, these solids, known as plastics, offer techno-commercial challenges with regards to their disposal, and if left unattended affect the environment adversely. But waste is not waste till we waste it.

Let us learn from nature, wherein the governing principle is manifestation. Everything that materializes serves its purpose during its useful life and then disintegrates into its basic constituents to re-manifest in yet another useful form. The cycle continues, only the form changes. Plastics being long chains of hydrocarbons can be broken down into lighter components such as petrochemical gases, liquid fuels and petro coke.

The Corona de-polymerization pictorial model that is designed to convert five tonnes ofplastic waste into fuel per day
The Corona de-polymerization pictorial model that is designed to convert five tonnes ofplastic waste into fuel per day (Picture: Corona Energy Pvt Ltd2013)

This process of breaking down plastic into lighter components is known as ‘Cracking’. Thermal cracking (or pyrolysis) requires high temperature and pressure conditions. However, in the presence of a specialized catalyst, cracking can be efficiently achieved at relatively much lower temperature and near atmospheric pressure, thus making the process commercially attractive and industrially safe. This

method of cracking is known as ‘Catalytic De-polymerization’.

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