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Chemical recycling of polycarbonate in a semi-continuous lab-plant. A green route with methanol and methanol–water mixtures

Piñero, Raúl, García, Juan, Cocero, María José
Green chemistry 2005 v.7 no.5 pp. 380-387
alcoholysis, bisphenol A, byproducts, carbonates, catalysts, catalytic activity, crystallization, crystals, depolymerization, green chemistry, methanol, sodium hydroxide, solvents, temperature, wastes
Alkali-catalysed depolymerization of polycarbonate (PC) wastes by alcoholysis in supercritical or near critical conditions has been studied in order to recover the essential monomer bisphenol A (BPA) and dimethyl carbonate (DMC) as a valuable by-product. This work aims to study the continuous process and possible scale-up for decomposition of both commercial PC and PC plastic wastes using methanol as solvent/reagent and NaOH as alkali catalyst. Total depolymerization of PC has been achieved working at a temperature range of 75–180 °C and pressures from 2 to 25 MPa. The influence of operation conditions on product yield, selectivity and reaction rate has been studied, including temperature, pressure, methanol/cosolvent ratio and catalyst concentration. BPA yields of 80–90% (kg product/kg PC) were achieved with a further crystallization and separation of the final product, resulting in BPA pure crystals (99.9%). DMC yield reached 35% (kg DMC/kg PC) and was proved to be strongly dependent on pressure and methanol/H₂O ratio. Non desired by-product yield was negligible when pure methanol was used as solvent and selectivity decreased with increasing methanol/H₂O ratio.