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Tandem Heterogeneous Catalysis for Polyethylene Depolymerization via an Olefin-Intermediate Process



Kathryn L. Beers, Sara Orski, Lucas Ellis, Andrew Norman, Yuriy Rom?n-Leshkov, Gregg T. Beckham


The accumulation of plastic waste in the environment has prompted the development of new chemical recycling technologies. A recently reported approach employed homogeneous organometallic catalysts for tandem dehydrogenation and olefin cross metathesis to depolymerize polyethylene (PE) feedstocks to a mixture of alkane products. Building on that work, here a fully heterogeneous catalyst system was developed using a physical mixture of SnPt/-Al2O3 and Re2O7/-Al2O3. This heterogeneous catalyst system produces a distribution of linear alkane products from a model, linear C20 alkane, n-eicosane, and from high-density polyethylene substrate, both in an n-pentane solvent. For the PE substrate, a molecular weight decrease of 74% was observed at 200°C in 15 hr. This type of tandem chemistry, in which, poorly reactive aliphatic substrates are first activated through dehydrogenation, then functionalized or cleaved by a highly active olefin catalyst, has been called an Olefin-Intermediate Process. Olefin-intermediate processes like that examined here offer both a selective and versatile means to depolymerize polyolefins at lower severity than traditional pyrolysis or cracking conditions.
ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering


depolymerization, Polyethylene, Circular Economy


Beers, K. , Orski, S. , Ellis, L. , Norman, A. , Rom?n-Leshkov, Y. and Beckham, G. (2021), Tandem Heterogeneous Catalysis for Polyethylene Depolymerization via an Olefin-Intermediate Process, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, [online], (Accessed May 28, 2024)


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Created January 8, 2021, Updated May 24, 2022