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Turning Plastic Waste into Carbon Nanotubes

Technology Overview

This technology for conversion of plastic waste into carbon nanotubes has the potential to increase the profit margin in chemical recycling of plastics. Carbon nanotubes are a high-performance additives that were found to significantly improve properties of various materials. For instance, they can be used to manufacture light weight and mechanically strong plastics, powerful batteries and smart textiles.

The proposed technology is an add-on chemical process to conventional plastic pyrolysis plants. At pyrolysis plants, plastic waste (mainly polyethylene, PE and polypropylene, PP) is first decomposed at high temperature, resulting in carbon black, oil and C1-C5 gases. The carbon black can be used as an additive to make inks and tires, while oil and C1-C5 can be used as fuels. To produce carbon nanotubes, a reactor containing a catalyst is connected to the pyrolysis unit. The catalyst is able to convert C1-C5 gases into carbon nanotubes and combustible gas containing 30-40% hydrogen.

The advantage of producing carbon nanotubes on top of pyrolysis conventional products is the carbon nanotubes price, which is much higher compared to plastic feedstock, carbon black and oil. Furthermore, the process allows to process C1-C5 gases into solid carbon, thus, avoiding carbon emissions. Depending on plastic feedstock quality, a tonne of plastic waste can be converted into approximately 50 kg carbon black, 400-600 kg pyrolysis oil and 100 kg of carbon nanotubes.

The technology owner is seeking collaboration with industry partners and possible mode of collaboration includes technology licensing, research collaboration and test-bedding.

Technology Features & Specifications

  • Feedstock to contain above 90% PE and/or PP and all remaining impurities are no more than 10% 
  • Scalable process and can be containerised and shipped worldwide
  • Uses gases after oil condensation for carbon nanotube synthesis
  • Can operate off-grid using combustible gas and oil produced at the plant as energy sources
  • 1 tonne of plastics yields approximately 100 kg multi-walled CNTs at purity grades >95-97% CNTs depending on the synthesis and purification conditions
  • Multi-walled carbon nanotubes – high performance additive to batteries, polymer composites, 3D printing materials, paintings, coatings and sensors

Potential Applications

Pyrolysis upgrading: add-on process for plastic waste treatment.

Market Trends and Opportunities

The global demand for carbon nanotubes is constantly growing owing to increasing demand for higher quality materials.

Customer Benefits

  • Increased profit margin of plastic waste treatment
  • Carbon capture from plastic pyrolysis gas

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