Illinois university scientists converts plastic bags into diesel, other useful petroleum products

Scientists convert plastic shopping bags into diesel

8:06 AM, 15th February 2014
University of Illinois research on plastic bags
Carrier bags could provide a new source of fuel after scientists manage to convert the material into petrol, natural gas, oil and wax.

ILLINOIS, US: The old plastic bags that we throw out could one day be used to power your car. Scientists have developed a way to convert plastic shopping bags into diesel, natural gas and other useful petrol-based products. The process of converting the bags into fuel produces significantly more energy than it requires and leads to transport fuels, including diesel that can be mixed with diesel.

“You can get only 50 to 55 per cent fuel from the distillation of petroleum crude oil. But since this plastic is made from petroleum in the first place, we can recover almost 80 per cent fuel from it through distillation,” said Dr Brajendra Sharma, Study author, University of Illinois.

Hundreds of billions of plastic shopping bags are thrown away every year round the world, with some estimates showing that just one in eight are recycled. The rest end up in landfill sites, or as litter or in the sea. Plastic bags make up a large portion of the floating rubbish in oceans that kill wildlife and litter beaches. The carriers have been detected as far north and south as the poles, said the researchers.

Previous studies have found a way to convert plastic bags into crude oil, but this is the first to prove they can be made into diesel. Dr Sharma’s team took the research further by turning crude oil into different petroleum products that can be used for a multitude of purposes. The researchers were able to blend up to 30 per cent of their plastic-derived diesel into regular diesel, and found no compatibility problems with biodiesel, said Sharma. “It’s perfect. We can just use it as a drop-in fuel in the ultra-low-sulphur diesel without the need for any changes,” added Sharma.


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