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Internship/Master’s thesis (6 months) at Utrecht University: Understanding the Effect of Acidity and Pore Structure in Catalytic Cracking of Polyolefins

Catalytic cracking of plastic waste: Effect of pore structure and acidity

The majority of the plastic waste produced worldwide ends up either in a landfill, or is incinerated. Only 12% is recycled, and with current mechanical recycling technology, the resulting recycled plastic is often of significantly lower quality than the original virgin material. Chemical recycling is an emerging technology that aims at converting plastic waste back into chemical building blocks that can be then converted into a variety of products using existing chemical infrastructure. Some approaches are already applied commercially: Pyrolysis of polyolefins yields a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons that can be fed into a steam cracker.1 Using a catalyst in this process allows to lower the energy requirements of the process, and can shift the product distribution towards more valuable products like aromatics.2 Many catalyst properties influence the reaction, e.g. Lewis and Brønsted acidity, pore structure and metal loading. In order to design novel catalyst for polyolefin cracking, the role of these effects must be understood. The goal of this thesis is to understand how acidity or pore structure of the catalyst affects activity and selectivity of the reaction, building upon prior research in our group.

Knowledge of both heterogeneous catalysis and polymer chemistry
Initial experience with programming (e.g. Python or Matlab)
Ability to work independently
Full professional proficiency in English

Earliest possible start: November 2022

Where: Weckhuysen Group,  Inorganic Chemistry & Catalysis, Utrecht University

Application: Email with CV, cover letter, and transcripts to s.rejman(at)uu.nl

1. Vollmer, I. et al. Beyond Mechanical Recycling: Giving New Life to Plastic Waste. Angew. Chemie – Int. Ed. 59, 15402–15423 (2020).
2. Vollmer, I., Jenks, M. J. F., González, R. M., Meirer, F. & Weckhuysen, B. M. Plastic Waste Conversion over a Refinery Waste Catalyst. Angew. Chemie Int. Ed. 60, 16101 (2021).

Contact: Sebastian Rejman, s.rejman[ät]uu.nl

Link: https://inorganic-chemistry-and-catalysis.eu/available-projects-for-master-students/