Plastic Pyrolysis over HZSM-5 Zeolite and Fluid Catalytic Cracking Catalyst under Ultra-Fast Heating
Plastic pollution compromises the environment and human well-being, and a global transition to a circular economy of plastics is vital to address this challenge. Pyrolysis is a key technology for the end-of-life recycling of plastics, although high energy consumption limits the economic feasibility of the process. Various research has shown that the application of induction heating in biomass pyrolysis reduces energy consumption when compared to conventional heating. Nevertheless, the potential of induction heating in plastic pyrolysis is rarely explored. This paper presents an exploratory study on the thermal and catalytic pyrolysis of high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene in a fixed bed reactor through induction heating. An MFI-type HZSM-5 zeolite (SiO2/Al2O3 = 23) and an FAU-type spent fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalyst with distinctive Brønsted acidity and textural properties were used. A complete conversion of the plastic feedstocks was achieved within 10 min, even without a catalyst. Thermal pyrolysis produced wax (72.4–73.9 wt%) and gas products, indicating a limited degree of polymer cracking. Catalytic pyrolysis over HZSM-5 and FCC catalyst significantly improved polymer cracking, leading to higher gas (up to 75.2 wt%) and liquid product (up to 35.9 wt%) yields at the expense of wax yield (up to 25.4 wt%). In general, the gas products were rich in C3 and C4 compounds. The liquid product composition was highly dependent on the catalyst properties, for example, the HZSM-5 produced high aromatics, while the FCC catalyst produced high alkenes in the liquid products. The catalyst acidity and textural properties played an essential role in plastic pyrolysis within the short reaction time. This study demonstrated the feasibility of a fast, energy-efficient, and versatile plastic valorization technology based on the application of induction heating, where the plastic feed can be converted into wax, gas, and liquid products depending on the end-use applications.
Syie Luing Wong and Sabino Armenise have received support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant Agreement No. 754382, GOT ENERGY TALENT. The content of this publication does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in this paper lies entirely with the authors. Marta Muñoz also gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the Comunidad de Madrid (S2018/NMT-4411) for a project titled “Additive Manufacturing: from Material to Application.” Syie Luing Wong wishes to thank John Pillier, Li SiRui, Joe Gregory, and Deema Kunda for all the guidance and assistance provided during his research associated with the School of Engineering, University of Warwick, UK. Syie Luing Wong and Sabino Armenise also acknowledge the contributions of Carlos Prieto and the FCC team from CEPSA to this study in terms of materials, technical analysis, and intellectual discussions.
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