Turning hard-to-recycle plastics into jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.

Science Advances outlines a way to use a platinum-tungten-zirconium catalyst (“Pt/WO3/ZrO2” for short) along with a zeolite crystal to turn trash into, if not treasure, then at least fuel for fast machines:

Single-use plastics impose an enormous environmental threat, but their recycling, especially of polyolefins, has been proven challenging. We report a direct method to selectively convert polyolefins to branched, liquid fuels including diesel, jet, and gasoline-range hydrocarbons, with high yield up to 85% over Pt/WO3/ZrO2 and HY zeolite in hydrogen at temperatures as low as 225°C.

The process can be tuned to convert different common plastic wastes, including low- and high-density polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, everyday polyethylene bottles and bags, and composite plastics to desirable fuels and light lubricants.

The possibility of converting plastic waste to various types of motor fuels or lubricant base oils can add vital flexibility and increase economic feasibility of future plastic-waste conversion plants. Engineering the zeolite acidity and porosity can be a way to tune the product distribution.