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The new system allows to biodegrade polyethylene with less heat and energy to produce liquid fuel.
A new way of recycling millions of tons of plastic garbage transforming them into liquid fuel: the discovery was made by a joint team of researchers from the University of California and the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry.
The scientists figured out how to break down the strong bonds of polyethylene, the most common commercially available form of plastic. Their innovative technique is based on the use of alkanes, organic compounds made only of carbon and hydrogen, to scramble and separate polymer molecules into other useful compounds.
For a long time science has been seeking a way to recycle plastic with less toxic or energy intensive methods. With this new technique the researchers heat the plastic using less heat and in a more efficient way through a process known as cross-alkane metathesis. The substances needed for the new method are byproducts of oil refining, readily available in the industry.
The U.S.-China joint team is still working on a few issues to make the process more efficient, for example by increasing the catalyst activity and lifetime, decreasing the cost, and developing catalytic processes to turn other plastic trash into treasure.