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Polyolefin Pyrolysis via Liquid Metal Catalysis

Parker, Christopher E. (2022) Polyolefin Pyrolysis via Liquid Metal Catalysis. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Plastic production is expected to double in the next thirty years, which is the subject of environmental and health concerns. Improving end-of-life options for plastics can mitigate these concerns, and one solution is for plastic waste to be ‘upcycled’: broken down to its constituent components for re-use in high quality plastic manufacturing. Polyolefins are a particularly concerning type of plastic in this regard, making up about 49% of all plastic in use and to date there are few end-of-life processes that are both sustainable and economically feasible. Pyrolysis, also known as thermal decomposition, is a technically feasible method of upcycling polyolefins; however, without the aid of catalysts the process is energetically expensive and produces a set of low-value heterogenous products. An improvement on this process could enable improved rates of recycling, and a catalyst that has a high activity, resistant to coking, and able to handle a diverse set of feeds could provide the needed improvement.
Liquid metals may be such a catalyst. When used a reaction media low-melting metals such as bismuth provide a base for dissolving high-melting catalytically active metals such as nickel, while providing a reaction environment with excellent separation and heat transfer properties. Solutions of liquid metals have shown catalytic activity in similar reactions, and when paired with the thermal and physical properties of liquid metal are promising for use in polyolefin pyrolysis.
This thesis proposes that liquid metals could act as catalysts in pyrolysis of polyolefins, and explores the development of reactors, methods of characterization, and experimental methods required to demonstrate said catalytic activity. It goes on to apply these methods, models, and reactors to proof of concept experiments in application to polypropylene and polyethylene pyrolysis, as well as ethane dehydrogenation reactions. The liquid metals tested have yet to demonstrate catalytic activity, and the tools developed can be used to perform further testing on potential liquid metal catalysts for the pyrolysis of polyolefins.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Parker, Christopher E.chp123@pitt.educhp123
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairVeser, Götzgveser@pitt.edugveser
Committee MemberFullerton, Susanfullerton@pitt.edufullerton
Committee MemberMasnadi Shirazinejad, Mohammadm.masnadi@pitt.edum.masnadi
Date: 10 June 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 November 2021
Approval Date: 10 June 2022
Submission Date: 8 April 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 119
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
Degree: MSChE - Master of Science in Chemical Engineering
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Catalysis Bismuth Polyolefins Pyrolysis
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2022 19:36
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2022 19:36


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