Photocatalytic Conversion of Waste Plastics into C-2 Fuels under Simulated Natural Environment Conditions
Angewandte Chemie International Edition 59(36):15497-15501 Sep 2020 

Jiao, Xingchen; Zheng, Kai; Chen, Qingxia; Li, Xiaodong; Li, Yamin; Shao, Weiwei; Xu, Jiaqi; Zhu, Junfa; Pan, Yang; Sun, Yongfu; Xie, Yi


Reported here is the first highly selective conversion of various waste plastics into C2 fuels under simulated natural environment conditions by a sequential photoinduced C−C cleavage and coupling pathway, where single‐use bags, disposable food containers, food wrap films, and their main components of polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride can be photocatalytically transformed into CH3COOH without using sacrificial agents. As an example, polyethylene is photodegraded 100 % into CO2 within 40 h by single‐unit‐cell thick Nb2O5 layers, while the produced CO2 is further photoreduced to CH3COOH. Various methods and experiments disclose that O2 and .OH radicals trigger the oxidative C−C cleavage of polyethylene to form CO2, while other investigations show that the yielded CH3COOH stems from CO2 photoreduction by C−C coupling of .COOH intermediates. This two‐step plastic‐to‐fuel conversion may help to simultaneously address the white pollution crisis and harvest highly valuable multicarbon fuels in natural environments. 

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