Plastics recycling: Using supercritical CO2 to clean up additives

Thermoplastics ("plastics") such as polyethylene and polypropylene dominate the global production of polymers. A significant fraction of these are deployed in single-use packaging applications. It is now recognized that the short use life of such products represents an important problem, and that recycling of these materials is a potential solution. There are, however, significant challenges to the recycling of plastics. One issue is that thermal reprocessing results in a deterioration of their properties. Another is the presence of an array of additives, including, stabilizers, processing-aids, fire-retardants, etc. Separation of these is important to facilitate recycling. This project will explore the possibility of solubilization and separation of such additives using supercritical carbon dioxide. The project is primarily experimental and will involve the thermodynamics of supercritical CO2, about the thermodynamics (and kinetics) of polymer dissolution. 

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