Washington: NRI discovers new method to recycle plastic bags

Washington: An Indian-origin scientist has discovered a new method to recycle plastic bags into valuable multiwalled carbon nanotubes.

Researcher Vilas Ganpat Pol from the Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois, has found a new way to convert waste plastic like “throwaway” carrier bags into carbon nanotubes, the cylindrical carbon molecules that exhibit extraordinary strength and unique electrical properties.

Pol converted high or low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE) into valuable multiwalled carbon nanotubes and also used the nanotubes to make lithium-ion batteries, Journal of Environmental Monitoring reported.

He made the nanotubes by cooking 1-gram pieces of HDPE or LDPE at 700 °C for 2 hours in the presence of a cobalt acetate catalyst and then letting the mixture cool gradually.

“Above 600 °C the chemical bonds within the plastic completely break down and multiwalled carbon nanotubes grow on the surface of the catalytic particles,” Pol said.

 The researcher added, “This method of converting a waste product into something more valuable is called upcycling. Finding ways to upcycle waste could encourage more recycling: for instance, bacteria can convert plastic drinks bottles into a more expensive plastic”.

Expert in recycling plastic Geoffrey Mitchell from the University of Reading, UK, thinks the new technique is an “interesting part of the jigsaw” of recycling plastic waste to make high-value electronic materials.

-PTI from Zee News

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