Confined catalysis for controlled depolymerization of polyolefins

The goal of this project is to develop nanoreactors to recycle polyolefin waste into value-added products. For this purpose we create bowl-shaped polymer templates that are silicified for stabilization and functionalized with catalysts. The nanocavity size controls the product composition.

Polyolefins are one of the most commonly used plastics, especially in packaging applications, and their increased production has raised the amount of waste, which may end up in the environment. In order to prevent the waste problem, we need sustainable solutions; one effective way is chemical recycling. We aim to degrade polyolefin waste into smaller alkanes with a well-defined product composition. This requires both special catalysts and substrate selection. We will develop bowl-shaped nanoreactors by silicification of polymer vesicle templates. Special catalyst(s) will be confined into the vesicles, which facilitates control over the amount and location of the catalyst(s) as well as their accessibility. This project is a collaboration with other projects which focus on catalyst design and product separation. This collaborative project will provide new methodologies for polyolefin recycling on the way to sustainability.