A solar-powered reactor recycles plastics and greenhouse gases
A win for science and the environment. scientistshas developed a system that turns plastic waste and greenhouse gases into fuel. And best of all, it’s all done from a solar-powered reactor. That’s double stability.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge in Great Britain managed to develop a a machine capable of converting carbon dioxide (CO2) and plastics into various products that can be useful for various industries.
In initial studies, CO2 was turned into a sustainable liquid fuel base, and plastic waste was turned into glycolic acid, an acid widely used in the cosmetics industry. The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Synthesis.
Plastic waste and greenhouse gases are the main pollution threats to our planet. An alternative could be a solar-powered reactor. For researchers, this opportunity leads to a very important step towards a sustainable economy.
Professor Erwin Reisner from the Department of Chemistry says: “Plastic pollution is a huge problem around the world, and all too often, most of the plastics we throw in the bins are incinerated or end up in landfills.”
Subhajit Bhattacharjee, co-author of the paper and also a Cambridge researcher, said that the big difference in the new reactor being developed is the ability to combine plastic and gas recycling processes into a single technology.
“Solar-powered technology that can help fight plastic pollution and greenhouse gases at the same time can be a game-changer for the development of a circular economy,” he said.
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The reactor is integrated with two different chambers, one for plastics and one for greenhouse gases. The device also uses a light absorber based on perovskite, a technology that absorbs sunlight very efficiently.
The team also designed different catalysts that, when integrated with a light absorber, have the potential to create different products.
In initial tests, it was possible to convert PET and CO2 bottles to different carbon-based fuels with the reactor under normal temperature and pressure conditions.
“Typically converting CO2 requires a lot of energy, with our system you basically turn on the light and start turning the harmful product into something useful and sustainable,” said Motiar Rahaman, first author of the paper.
Versatility and the ability to be reconfigured to produce different types of materials is what draws attention to the new reactor.
And the future?
Researchers have received new funding from the European Research Council to help develop a solar-powered reactor.
There are plans to further develop and refine the project over the next five years. They claim it is possible to replicate similar techniques on a large scale, and could develop a refinery that runs entirely on solar energy.
“Developing a circular economy, where we make useful things out of waste rather than dumping it in landfills, is vital if we are to meaningfully address the climate crisis and protect the natural world,” said Erwin.
According to information from the University of Cambridge.