Researchers from the University of Cambridge, the United Kingdom have recently developed a system that can transform polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic waste and greenhouse gases into sustainable fuels and other valuable products using solar energy.

 

About the research

  • The researchers developed an integrated reactor with two separate compartments — One for plastic and one for greenhouse gases.
  • The reactor uses a light absorber based on perovskite – a promising alternative to silicon for next-generation solar cells.
  • Tests of the reactor under normal temperature and pressure conditions showed the reactor could efficiently convert polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles and CO2 into different carbon-based fuels such as CO, syngas or formate, in addition to glycolic acid.
  • The reactor produced these products at a rate that is also much higher than conventional photocatalytic CO2 reduction processes.

 

What is Polyethylene terephthalate?

  • It is a condensation polymer of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid.
  • The by-product of the reaction is water so it is an example of condensation or step-growth polymerisation.
  • PET Plastic is a thermoplastic synthetic substance which malleable under heat and can be placed into nearly any shape.