Is fuel made of plastic going to be the solution?

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Scientists at the University of Washington believe it is possible to make fuel for jets from plastic bottles

Is fuel made of plastic going to be the solution?

Pollution by plastic has put the planet in check. This material, used in a myriad of products, has become a nightmare when it comes to discarding it because it continues to be produced despite a large number of tons that are not recycled and that end up in the oceans. It is estimated that annually the oceans are contaminated with 4.8 million tons of plastic.

Leer en español: ¿Podría el combustible hecho de plástico ser la solución?

The problem has worsened because China, which was the nation that imports the vast majority of this material, no longer receives the same amount of plastic from large countries such as the United States and Canada. Countries like Malaysia tried to supply the place left by the Asian giant, but also announced that it is tired of being the garbage dump of the world and returned contaminated plastic containers to several nations including Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, United States, among others.

The environmental crisis that has produced the plastic has led scientists in different parts of the world to try to find a solution. That is the case of scientists from the Washington State University, who carried out an investigation whose results are promising and could help solve the problem.

In the study entitled, Applied Energy, scientists found a way to convert everyday products, made of plastic, into jet fuel. The experiment consisted of melting the plastic at high temperatures using activated carbon as a catalyst. Among the plastics that melted were containers such as water bottles, milk bottles, plastic bags, among others.

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After being reduced to the size of a grain of rice, these plastics were placed in a reactor with activated carbon and temperatures between 430 and 571°C. Coal functions as a catalyst in the process, that is, it is not consumed during the chemical reaction. This means that the coal can be used several times since it can be easily extracted from the mixture.

According to EurekAlert, "after testing several different catalysts at different temperatures, the best result was that they produced a mixture of 85 percent jet fuel and 15 percent diesel fuel".

Hanwu Lei, who led the team of researchers, says that "we can recover almost 100 percent of the energy of the plastic we test". "The fuel is of very good quality and the produced by-product gases are of high quality and useful as well", explains Lei.

In addition to the high quality of the fuel, the results of the study can be scaled to large scales and, in fact, can become a source of employment and income. Lei says the method can be applied on farms so that farmers produce diesel from plastic.


LatinAmerican Post | Marcela Peñaloza

Translated from "¿Podría el combustible hecho de plástico ser la solución?"

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