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Upcycling disposable face masks into fuel range iso-alkanes through hydropyrolysis coupled with vapor-phase hydrocracking...

by Xianzhi Meng, Arthur J Ragauskas
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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an alarming accumulation of plastic waste. Herein, an integrated hydropyrolysis and hydrocracking process was performed to upcycle disposable masks into fuel-range iso-alkanes over carbon supported ruthenium (Ru/C). Experimental results indicated that catalyst type significantly affected product distribution during the hydropyrolysis and vapor-phase hydrocracking of disposable masks. Compared with zeolites-induced catalytic cascade process where up to ∼25.9 wt% yield of aromatic hydrocarbons such as toluene and xylenes were generated, a ∼82.7 wt% yield of desirable iso-alkanes with a high C5–C12 gasoline selectivity of 95.5% was obtained over Ru/C under 550 °C hydropyrolysis temperature and 300 °C hydrocracking temperature at 0.2 MPa H2. The cascade hydropyrolysis and hydrocracking process also exhibited high adaptability and flexibility in upcycling single-use syringes, food packaging, and plastic bags, generating 79.1, 81.6, and 80.3 wt% yields of fuel range iso/n-alkanes, respectively. This catalytic cascade hydrotreating process provides an efficient and effective approach to convert pandemic-derived plastic waste into gasoline-range fuel products.