11 Nov 2013

DIY Plastic to Oil

"Nothing to date has proven to be a truly effective or environmentally responsible solution to the burgeoning global landfill problem. In fact, many existing solutions have been just the opposite: costly, energy inefficient or equally as harmful to the environment as the plastic itself. "

It's only now, with the evolving pyrolysis technology, that there is a solution that is not only economically viable, but that is remarkably simple and "green" as well.

Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperature without the participation of oxygen. In this process long polymer molecules are broken down into shorter chains of hydrocarbons with the help of heat and pressure. You can learn more about this process here.

This technology is growing in popularity and in demand. Commercial machines for home are still expensive. But with the following method, you can convert waste plastic to fuel all by yourself!
 
Here's how I did it:

Pyrolysis Setup
Lab experiment
WARNING:
  • You will be working with highly flammable substances
  • The fumes could be harmful, so avoid inhaling them
  • Make sure to keep the fumes produced in the reaction away from fire and from electrical points
  • Work in a well ventilated spaces
  • Keep a fire extinguisher and some water on stand by in can of an accident


Construction of prototype pyrolysis reactor
  • Procure a steel container with a tight lid
  • Build a condensation tube from copper/aluminum
  • Build a system for monitoring the temperature of the feed
  • Build a system to efficiently condense and collect the mixture of products


The pyrolysis process
  • Ideally, 1 kg of plastic can produce 1 kg of fuel. For getting a good yield, you can use polypropylene i.e. any plastic product with the mark:

  • Shred the waste plastic and put in the container
Reactor parts
  • Seal the container as perfectly as possible
  • Circulate water in the condenser
  • Fire it on!
Pyrolysis underway
  • Within minutes, the shimmering oil will start to drip from the condenser
  • If the condenser isn't sufficient, you can additionally bubble the gas into water
Black gold in the making

Flame test of the oil
  • If you want to obtain refined usable products from this mixture, you can do so by careful fractional distillation
Products extracted from crude oil 

Waste is a misplaced resource! Your trashcan's a treasure chest. So go make oil from plastic and: Stop depleting our fossil fuel reserves. Stop contributing to the landfills. Stop contributing to global warming.
 
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