Waste Polystyrene Recycling with Nanofibrous Catalysts

Corinne Haas Blacksher, Courtney Severino, Sarah Nealy, Andrei Stanishevsky University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1300 University Boulevard, Birmingham, AL 35294-1170, USA

Polystyrene (PS) is one of several major waste plastics produced globally. While recycling PS can reduce waste, PS in the form of  expanded PS (EPS) or Styrofoam is not recycled due to the very high cost of available processing methods. Instead converting EPS to styrene monomer (e.g. ethylbenzene or styrene carbonate), EPS can be converted into high value-added products using better processing methods. This requires the development of efficient catalytic systems that can provide high selectivity, productivity, stability, low process temperatures (below 400 oC), and costs. In the present study, waste EPS samples were decomposed using thermo-catalytic pyrolysis over the inorganic nanofibrous catalytic membranes (NFCMs) in the range of temperatures from 240 to 400 oC. The reactions were performed in CO2, N2, Ar, air, and their mixtures. The NFCMs were composed of nanofibers based on TiO2, ZrO2, SiO2, WO3, CuO, CeO2, NiO, and Fe2O3, which were fabricated using a free-surface high-throughput electrospinning and thermal processing methods. The most efficient catalysts were characterized by XRD and SEM/EDS techniques. Highly porous (94–99 %) NFCMs enabled strong interaction between melting PS and catalyst. It was noted that the fast decomposition of PS over NFCMs can occur at the temperatures as low as 250 oC. Mostly liquid products were produced (35–85 wt%), whereas the solids (char) were less than 2 wt% and the rest was gas, depending on the catalyst. The products were characterized in situ by FTIR and fluorescence spectroscopies, as well as gas chromatography. The initial liquid phase analysis using HPLC indicated the formation of either substantial fractions of ethylbenzene or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) with some catalytic systems. The obtained results show the feasibility of EPS conversion in the reactors based on nanofibrous catalytic membranes.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenters: Corinne Blacksher, Courtney Severino, Sarah Nealy

Institution: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Type: Poster

Subject: Environmental Science & Sustainability

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 6
Date/Time: Tue 2:00pm-3:00pm
Session Number: 4637