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The Mechanics of Forming Ideal Polymer–Solvent Combinations for Open-Loop Chemical Recycling of Solvents and Plastics

Ioannis Tsampanakis, Alvin Orbaek White Orcid Logo

Polymers, Volume: 14, Issue: 1, Start page: 112

Swansea University Authors: Ioannis Tsampanakis, Alvin Orbaek White Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.3390/polym14010112

Abstract

The inherent value and use of hydrocarbons from waste plastics and solvents can be extended through open-loop chemical recycling, as this process converts plastic to a range of non-plastic materials. This process is enhanced by first creating plastic−solvent combinations from multiple sources, which...

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Published in: Polymers
ISSN: 2073-4360
Published: MDPI AG 2021
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa59073
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Abstract: The inherent value and use of hydrocarbons from waste plastics and solvents can be extended through open-loop chemical recycling, as this process converts plastic to a range of non-plastic materials. This process is enhanced by first creating plastic−solvent combinations from multiple sources, which then are streamlined through a single process stream. We report on the relevant mechanics for streamlining industrially relevant polymers such as polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) into chemical slurries mixed with various organic solvents such as toluene, xylene, and cyclohexane. The miscibility of the polymer feedstock within the solvent was evaluated using the Relative Energy Difference method, and the dissolution process was evaluated using the “Molecular theories in a continuum framework” model. These models were used to design a batch process yielding 1 tonne/h slurry by setting appropriate assumptions including constant viscosity of solvents, disentanglement-controlled dissolution mechanism, and linear increase in the dissolved polymer’s mass fraction over time. Solvent selection was found to be the most critical parameter for the dissolution process. The characteristics of the ideal solvent are high affinity to the desired polymer and low viscosity. This work serves as a universal technical guideline for the open-loop chemical recycling of plastics, avoiding the growth of waste plastic by utilising them as a carbon feedstock towards a circular economy framework.
Keywords: plastic waste, chemical recycling, mathematical modelling, carbon feedstock, circular economy, open-loop recycling, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polystyrene, toluene
College: College of Engineering
Funders: A.O.W. is funded through the Sêr Cymru II Fellowship by the Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). A.O.W. acknowledges funding from the Welsh Government Circular Economy Capital Fund FY 2020-21. I.T. is funded by the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS). KESS is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys. I.T. is part funded by TRIMTABS Ltd. through the KESS2 program.
Issue: 1
Start Page: 112