Ultrafast 99% Polyethylene terephthalate depolymerization into value added monomers using sequential glycolysis-hydrolysis under microwave irradiation
Brennan Fournet, Margaret
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Effective and efficient hybrid depolymerisation technologies are emerging as high potential sustainable routes with considerable benefits over conventional recycling methods for the achievement of circular economies for plastics. Herein, combined green and fast glycolysis-hydrolysis depolymerization of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was carried out under microwave irradiation (MW) with excellent efficiencies. In MW assisted glycolysis of PET, the catalytic activity of two deep eutectic solvents (DES) based on (choline chloride-urea (DES 1)) and (choline chloride-thiourea (DES 2)) was evaluated and compared. Optimised glycolysis conditions were determined using Box Behnken Design (BBD) to attain maximum weight loss of PET, low crystallinity and increased carbonyl index of residual PET. DES volume of 4 mL, 5.5–6 mL of ethylene glycol, and 0.5 min MW irradiation time resulted in a prominent rise in PET weight loss and carbonyl index of residual PET. DES 2 showed an improved catalytic activity than that of DES 1 which is associated to its stronger interaction with EG and PET polymer chains during the course of the reaction. Residual PET obtained post glycolysis reaction was further depolymerized using MW assisted hydrolysis in the presence of weakly basic Na2CO3 and EG. Within 3-minute, the proposed sequential depolymerization technologies facilitated ≈99% conversion of PET to terephthalic acid (TPA), monohydroxyethyl terephthalate (MHET), and bis (2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalate (BHET) monomers produced at a yield of 62.79–80.66%, 17.22–34.79% and 0.54–0.59% respectively. Application on post-consumer PET sample also revealed very satisfactory results with 96.77–98.25% PET conversion and 60.98–78.10% yield of TPA.
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