Oxford University: Turning plastic waste into hydrogen and high-value carbons

Oxford University researchers have developed a method of converting plastic waste into hydrogen gas which can be used as clean fuel and high-value solid carbon.

Working in collaboration with colleagues at universities and institutions in the UK, China and Saudi Arabia, researchers in the Edwards/ Xiao group at Oxford’s Department of Chemistry achieved this with a new type of catalysis developed by the group which uses microwaves to activate catalyst particles to effectively ‘strip’ hydrogen from polymers.

The findings, published in Nature Catalysis, detail how the researchers mixed mechanically-pulverised plastic particles with a microwave-susceptor catalyst of iron oxide and aluminium oxide.

The mixture was subjected to microwave treatment and yielded a large volume of hydrogen gas and a residue of carbonaceous materials, the bulk of which were identified as carbon nanotubes.

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