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  1. Conversion of plastic wastes to fatty acids is an attractive means to supplement the sourcing of these high-value, high-volume chemicals. We report a method for transforming polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) at ~80% conversion to fatty acids with number-average molar masses of up to ~700 and 670 daltons, respectively. The process is applicable to municipal PE and PP wastes and their mixtures. Temperature-gradient thermolysis is the key to controllably degrading PE and PP into waxes and inhibiting the production of small molecules. The waxes are upcycled to fatty acids by oxidation over manganese stearate and subsequent processing. PP ꞵ-scission produces more olefin wax and yields higher acid-number fatty acids than does PE ꞵ-scission. We further convert the fatty acids to high-value, large–market-volume surfactants. Industrial-scale technoeconomic analysis suggests economic viability without the need for subsidies.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 11, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  3. Catalyzed by copper sulfide nanoparticles (CuS NPs), polycarbonate (PC) degradation exhibits different degradation behaviors in varying solvents, showing competitive processes of chain scission, branching, and crosslinking.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 25, 2024
  4. Plastic waste represents one of the most urgent environmental challenges facing humankind. Upcycling has been proposed to solve the low profitability and high market sensitivity of known recycling methods. Existing upcycling methods operate under energy-intense conditions and use precious-metal catalysts, but produce low-value oligomers, monomers, and common aromatics. Herein, we report a tandem degradation-upcycling strategy to exploit high-value chemicals from polystyrene (PS) waste with high selectivity. We first degrade PS waste to aromatics using ultraviolet (UV) light and then valorize the intermediate to diphenylmethane. Low-cost AlCl 3 catalyzes both the reactions of degradation and upcycling at ambient temperatures under atmospheric pressure. The degraded intermediates can advantageously serve as solvents for processing the solid plastic wastes, forming a self-sustainable circuitry. The low-value-input and high-value-output approach is thus substantially more sustainable and economically viable than conventional thermal processes, which operate at high-temperature, high-pressure conditions and use precious-metal catalysts, but produce low-value oligomers, monomers, and common aromatics. The cascade strategy is resilient to impurities from plastic waste streams and is generalizable to other high-value chemicals (e.g., benzophenone, 1,2-diphenylethane, and 4-phenyl-4-oxo butyric acid). The upcycling to diphenylmethane was tested at 1-kg laboratory scale and attested by industrial-scale techno-economic analysis, demonstrating sustainability and economic viability without government subsidies or tax credits. 
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  5. Abstract

    Polystyrene (PS) is one of the least recycled large‐volume commodity plastics due to bulkiness of foam products and associated contaminants. PS recycling is also severely hampered by the lack of financial incentive, limited versatility, and poor selectivity of existing methods. To this end, herein we report a thermochemical recycling strategy of “degradation‐upcycling” to synthesize a library of high‐value aromatic chemicals from PS wastes with high versatility and selectivity. Two cascade reactions are selected to first degrade PS to benzene under mild temperatures, followed by the derivatization thereof utilizing a variety of acyl/alkyl and sulfinyl chloride additives. To demonstrate the versatility, nine ketones and sulfides of cosmetic and pharmaceutical relevance were prepared, including propiophenone, benzophenone, and diphenyl sulfide. The approach is also amenable to sophisticated upcycling reaction designs and can produce desired products stepwise. The facile and versatile approach will provide a scalable and profitable methodology for upcycling PS waste into value‐added chemicals.

     
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  6. Abstract

    Polystyrene (PS) is one of the least recycled large‐volume commodity plastics due to bulkiness of foam products and associated contaminants. PS recycling is also severely hampered by the lack of financial incentive, limited versatility, and poor selectivity of existing methods. To this end, herein we report a thermochemical recycling strategy of “degradation‐upcycling” to synthesize a library of high‐value aromatic chemicals from PS wastes with high versatility and selectivity. Two cascade reactions are selected to first degrade PS to benzene under mild temperatures, followed by the derivatization thereof utilizing a variety of acyl/alkyl and sulfinyl chloride additives. To demonstrate the versatility, nine ketones and sulfides of cosmetic and pharmaceutical relevance were prepared, including propiophenone, benzophenone, and diphenyl sulfide. The approach is also amenable to sophisticated upcycling reaction designs and can produce desired products stepwise. The facile and versatile approach will provide a scalable and profitable methodology for upcycling PS waste into value‐added chemicals.

     
    more » « less