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Converting inert plastic waste into energetic materials: A study on the light-accelerated decomposition of plastic waste with the Fenton reaction

Chow, Cheuk-Fai, Wong, Wing-Leung, Chan, Ching-Wan, Chan, Chung-Sum
Waste management 2018 v.75 pp. 174-180
Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, catalysts, chemical reactions, energy, hydrogen peroxide, iron, oxidants, plastics, poly(vinyl chloride), polypropylenes, waste management, wastes
Better treatment and management strategies than landfilling are needed to address the large quantities of unrecycled plastic waste generated by daily human activities. Waste-to-energy conversion is an ideal benchmark for developing future large-scale waste management technologies. The present study explores a new approach for producing energetic materials by converting inert plastic waste into energy (thermal and mechanical energies) via a light-controlled process through the simple chemical activation of plastic waste, including polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride. The inert and non-polar polymer surfaces of the plastics were modified by generating a number of sulfonic groups (SO3−) using chlorosulfuric acid, followed by grafting of Fe(III) catalyst onto the polymer chains to obtain activated polymer. Elemental analyses of these activated materials showed that the carbon-to-sulfur ratio ranged from 3:1 to 5:1. The FTIR spectra indicated the presence of CC bonds (vC=C: 1615–1630 cm−1) and SO bonds (vS=O: 1151–1167 cm−1) in the activated polymers after chemical reaction. These activated materials were energetic, as light could be used to convert them into thermal (1800–3200 J/g) and mechanical energies (380–560 kPa/g) using hydrogen peroxide as the oxidant under ambient conditions within 1 h.