EnabledCatalysts News Insights

EnabledCatalysts News Insights

MIT scientists develop process to convert waste plastic into propane

4th November, 2022

MIT scientists have developed a process to convert waste polyethylene and polypropylene into propane using 5-10wt% Co-ZSM-5 zeolite. The research, which is open access, was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). The research, led by Yuriy Román-Leshkov – professor of chemical engineering at MIT, and carried out in conjunction with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) runs solvent free using mild reaction temperatures of around 250°C and 20 bar pressure. A mass selectivity of up to 84% propane (C3H8) and ≤5 wt methane (CH4) was achieved. The nanoparticles of Co on the support improve the catalysts selectivity and stability providing a higher propane yield than if ZSM-5 were used on its own. Propane is a useful fuel gas and chemical feedstock and can be converted via a catalytic dehydrogenation into propylene which can then be used to make fresh polypropylene as well as many other C3 value chain chemicals. By using a range of other zeolites the reaction can be tuned to make hydrocarbons in the range of transportation fuels giving access to a route to reduce plastic waste and displace virgin fossil fuels.

The researchers acknowledge that while their work is promising, there are areas which need to be better understood, including how exactly the zeolite properties enable the reaction. Zeolites are fascinating catalysts because many chemical and physical properties can be tuned to obtain the desired product mix. In addition, much more is required to design a viable process at scale including reactor selection, technoeconomic analysis, life cycle assessment, and importantly understanding and improving the tolerance towards plastic contaminants and additives.

Catalysis and CO2 reductions

3rd November, 2022

As the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) is set to begin in 3 days time in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, we take a look at a few of the messages from key catalyst companies on their role in CO2 reduction.

BASF, (HQ, Ludwigshafen, Germany), wants to meet NetZero as a business by 2050 which is an enormous task given the size of its chemical operations. The company reports on recent technologies it has developed to reduce carbon emissions including its CircleStar™ ethanol dehydration catalyst which decreases CO2 footprint of bioethylene production

Clariant (HQ, Muttenz, Switzerland) has a range of decarbonising catalyst technologies including for purification of green feedstocks, carbon capture and utilsation (CCU), power-to-x, and energy storage vectors. Its EnviCat® N2O-S catalyst is also accredited with reducing 4 million tCO2eq in 2021 from 10 nitric acid plants and won the American Chemistry Council (ACC) the Sustainability Leadership Award 2022.

Johnson Matthey (HQ, Royston, UK) is showcasing its technologies aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from air travel for instance using its HyCOgen technology which can react captured CO2 with green hydrogen to make low carbon synthesis gas, which can then be converted to sustainable aviation fuels.

Topsoe (HQ, Lyngby, Denmark) has developed catalysts for green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol and e-fuels. It is also working on catalysis for processing waste and biomass feedstocks into valuable chemicals and fuels. Topsoe also has a separate battery materials business unit. Topsoe reports that in 2021, its technologies saved its customers 16 million tCO2eq emissions.

Catalysis undoubtedly has a huge role to play in cutting carbon emissions. Check back for updates during COP27 as we will be reporting on strategies and messages put forward by chemical and catalyst companies during the COP27 event.