Wyly Wade

Engineering Chinese chemists have developed a super efficient method for turning polyethylene, the plastic which makes up almost all of the bags and bottles you use and throw away on a daily basis, into a liquid fuel.

Polyethylene (PE) is the largest-volume synthetic polymer, and its chemical inertness makes its degradation by low-energy processes a challenging problem. We report a tandem catalytic cross alkane metathesis method for highly efficient degradation of polyethylenes under mild conditions. With the use of widely available, low-value, short alkanes (for example, petroleum ethers) as cross metathesis partners, different types of polyethylenes with various molecular weights undergo complete conversion into useful liquid fuels and waxes. This method shows excellent selectivity for linear alkane formation, and the degradation product distribution (liquid fuels versus waxes) can be controlled by the catalyst structure and reaction time.

http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/6/e1501591.full

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