Catalytic conversion of waste plastic bags into electricity using nanotechnology

THE EFFECTS of plastic bags on the environment are really quite devastating. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), between 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. The bags find their way directly into landfills, oceans, rivers, and parks. Normal plastic bags do not decompose quickly. Thus, these bags will be around for centuries. When they finally begin to break down, toxic substances will seep into the ground and be washed into lakes, rivers, and the oceans. Animals have also been affected by Plastic bags. Some sea mammals get caught in the bags and arent able to come to the surface to breathe and they drown. Sometimes terrestrial animals, birds, or fish ingest pieces of a plastic bag due to which their digestive system blocks and cause them to die.

The environmental balance of the waterways is being thrown off by the rate of plastic bags finding their way into the mouths and intestinal tracts of aquatic mammals. Throughout the world plastic bags are responsible for suffocation deaths of woodland animals as well as inhibiting soil nutrients. Every bag that ends up in the woodlands of the country threatens the natural progression of wildlife i.e. both plants and animals. The indefinite period of time that the average plastic bag takes to breakdown can be literally hundreds of years. Because the break down rate is so slow the chances that the bag will harmlessly go away are almost none. Finally, a solution to dispose it off with the help of Nano catalyst is put forward.

We converted the waste plastic bags into biogas using nano-catalyst by the process of catalytic gasification. The process of thermal cracking by gasification was carried out in box furnace. Gasification is a process that converts organic or fossil fuel based carbonaceous materials into saturated and unsaturated Hydrocarbon gases. This is achieved by reacting the material at high temperatures (>700°C), without combustion, with a controlled amount of oxygen and steam. The use of catalyst in this process can bring the temperature further down making this process more effective and cost-efficient.

Hence, we used Nano catalyst by mixing it with waste plastic bags in the process. We produced and examined novel catalyst with homogeneous, well dispersed Nano-particles on a high-surface functional structured support, in relation to the process conditions of gasification of plastic wastes for gas quality in a continuous operation.

Nano material-based catalysts are usually heterogeneous catalysts broken up into metal Nano particles in order to speed up the catalytic process. The use of Nano catalyst in this process also resulted in enhanced number of hydrocarbon gas production (10 more gases produced) and thereby produced high yield, clean, high calorific value gas from the gasification of plastic waste in less time. The GC-MS of the resulted gases showed that they entirely consist of Hexene, Butene, Octene and a few other hydrocarbon gases (mostly unsaturated). Hence, long chains of polymers were broken down by thermal catalytic cracking and the time and temperature needed for breaking long chains were brought down. We were able to make sufficient and useful gas at 350°C by Nano catalytic gasification.

Research Applications:

Hydrocarbon gas has the ability to replace fossil fuels and thus it can have a number of applications in our energy deficient country such as, the greatest amounts of hydrocarbons are used as fuel for combustion, particularly in heating applications; it can power generators so the shortage of electricity can also be met; hydrocarbon gas may be burned directly in gas engines; it is also a readily available fuel, familiar to everyone in the form of the pocket lighter; this gas is used for artificial ripening of fruit; it makes poisonous mustard gas that is used as war gas; lower alkenes are used as illuminants; they are used for producing lamp black.

Furthermore, they are extremely useful to the chemical industry and natural anesthetic is another important use of hydrocarbon gases.

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