Solar-Powered Reactor for Converting Plastic and Greenhouse Gases into Sustainable Fuels

Researchers have developed a system that can transform plastic waste and greenhouse gases into sustainable fuels and other valuable products – using just the energy from the Sun. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, developed the system, which can convert two waste streams into two chemical products at the same time – the first time this has been achieved in a solar-powered reactor. The reactor converts carbon dioxide and plastics into different products that are useful in a range of industries. In tests, carbon dioxide was converted into syngas, a key building block for sustainable liquid fuels, and plastic bottles were converted into glycolic acid, which is widely used in the cosmetics industry. The system can easily be tuned to produce different products by changing the type of catalyst used in the reactor. Converting plastics and greenhouse gases – two of the biggest threats facing the natural world – into useful and valuable products using solar energy is an important step in the transition to a more sustainable, circular economy.


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