PFI-RP: A Novel Plastic Waste Recovery, Based on Environmentally Friendly (Green) Solvents

  • Huber, George W. (CoPI)
  • Bar-Ziv, Ezra (PI)
  • Hansen, Ted J. (CoPI)
  • Kolapkar, Shreyas S. (CoPI)
  • Long, Fei (CoPI)

Project Details


The broader commercial potential of this Partnership for the proposed Innovation-Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) project is the separation of plastic wastes into single pure resins to reuse in their original applications, such as food packaging. This technological solution significantly reduces disposal of plastic wastes in landfills. The novel approach turns a waste product into an asset. Further, the energy required for this new process is 7-10 times lower than the production of virgin resins from petroleum because the temperatures involved are lower than those in the current production processes (110-130 oC). The operation cost is lower than the petroleum-based polymers because no catalysts are used and the equipment cost is lower because standard equipment from chemical industry is used. Economic analysis has shown the technology to be cost effective at small-medium-large plant sizes. The following are the main benefits of this innovation: (1) prevention of disposal in landfills; (2) production of recyclable plastic products; (3) reduction of carbon footprint; and (4) lower costs. In addition, the societal benefits are the reduction of land used for landfills, the reduction in greenhouse gas generation, the reduction in ocean plastics, and an increased sustainability of materials.This project will enable the separation of most of the resins in plastic wastes using a sequence of solvents with each solvent specifically dissolving a specific resin. This process is based on molecular dynamic calculations that elucidate the interactions between the solvents and the polymers, accurately predicting and selecting solvents for specific polymers. The process has been verified experimentally at the bench scale. The key technological hurdle in scaling up the technology is integrating the various pilot scale components, high solvent recovery rate, andtransition to the use of green solvents. The main advantage over the competition is the ability to generate solubility curves for any plastic resin in any solvent in a relatively short time. The team has a database of over 1000 solvents, including green solvents.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date1/04/2331/03/26


  • National Science Foundation


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