Dr. Jingxiu Xie, tenure-track assistant professor in ENTEG, has been awarded a TKI Top Sector Chemistry grant of EUR 143 000 for her proposal on polyolefins recycling to aromatics. This project is co-funded by BioBTX, a company in Groningen with the goal of developing technology for the production of sustainable benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX). A post-doc will be hired to work on this project together with BioBTX, under the supervision of dr. Jingxiu Xie and prof. Erik Heeres, chair of the green chemical reaction engineering unit.
Polyolefins Recycling to Aromatics
Household waste is usually separated into different categories, including plastics, paper, glass, organic and the rest, due to the varied material properties which require tailored recycling technologies. Plastics recycling is arguably the most challenging, because plastics are made up of a wide range of polymers. For instance, single-use plastics, commonly used for food packaging, light weight plastic bags, drink containers etc, are made up of polyolefins. The current state-of-art technology for chemical recycling of polyolefins is pyrolysis, in which the raw material is fed into a reactor operating at elevated temperatures (450 – 650 °C). In this project, University of Groningen and BioBTX are partnering to develop a potentially more energy-saving and cost-effective process known as hydrogenolysis. Hydrogenolysis of polyolefins produce liquid hydrocarbons, which could then be upgraded to aromatics, in particular benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX). BTX are building blocks for high performance materials, e.g. aramid fibers used in aerospace and military applications. Ultimately, the new hydrogenolysis process to convert polyolefins to aromatics will be evaluated against BioBTX propriety Integrated Cascading Catalytic Pyrolysis (ICCP) technology.
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