The world is drowning in plastic. Each year, over 300 million tons of plastic finds its way to a landfill or into the environment where it will take hundreds of years to decompose and kill all manner of wildlife in the meantime. A team of chemists at Purdue may have found a partial solution to our plastic woes. As detailed in a paper published this week in Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, the chemists discovered a way to convert polypropylene—a type of plastic commonly used in toys, medical devices, and product packaging like potato chip bags—into gasoline and diesel-like fuel. The researchers said that this fuel is pure enough to be used as blendstock, a main component of fuel used in motorized vehicles. Polypropylene waste accounts for just under a quarter of the estimated 5 billion tons of plastic that have amassed in the world’s landfills in the last 50 years. To turn polypropylene into fuel, the researchers used supercritical water, a phase of water that demonstrates characteristics of both a liquid and a gas depending on the pressure and temperature conditions. Purdue chemist Linda Wang and her colleagues heated water to between 716 and 932 degrees Fahrenheit at pressures […]

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