Chemical recycling of plastics: developing solvolysis and catalytic depolymerization for plastics
The Unit of Separation and Conversion Technology (SCT, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, VITO) develops technologies for the sustainability of production processes in the (bio)chemical sector, replacement of fossil resources by renewable feedstocks for the chemical industry and the treatment of waste streams into high value chemicals. A strategic research theme is focusing on the use of plastics next to wood/lignin as an alternative feedstock for the production of renewable aromatics. In this perspective, chemical recycling of waste plastics is in line with VITO’s goal which is to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world where sustainability is the norm.
In this respect, VITO is part of CAPTURE, an interdisciplinary collaboration initiated by Flanders academic institutes UGent, UA and VITO (https://capture-resources.be/), focusing on providing integrated solutions to enhance resource recovery, by providing technological solutions going from waste to new resource to final application. Within the field of plastics waste, VITO focuses on the chemical recycling whereby the main polymer(s) of the plastic waste are either recovered as such or are converted to new building blocks for various applications.
Last years, VITO has developed strong expertise in processes relying on a technology based on efficient dissolution and heterogeneously catalyzed depolymerization. Based on the deep technological and application knowledge acquired on biomass, more recently, the technology was also identified to be very suitable to treat specific waste plastics, allowing to address the huge challenge of plastic wastes and improve global carbon circularity.
To strengthen this research, we are looking for a 2 (or 3) years postdoctoral research position to work within our Sustainable Polymer Technologies (SPOT) team. The focus of the research will be twofold, (1) contribute to the development of an efficient dissolution approach to recover intact polymers, as well as (2) the development of a chemical recycling method to chemically recycle oxygenated polymer waste into multifunctional depolymerization products which will be subsequently re-polymerized to generate a wide array of functional materials.
This position fits within the broader context of the chemical recycling of plastics towards new building blocks, either in the form of intact polymers or converted building blocks with added value. The work comprises technology development, detailed analytical characterization and assessment of potential functionalities for application.
The following tasks/actions are foreseen in our project to be conducted by the candidate, focusing on the separation/fractionation/purification of polymer waste with a focus on selected thermoplasts, and oxygenates (polyesters, polycarbonates and polyethers), and this both via modelling and experimental work:
- Active literature survey, keeping up to date with relevant articles and patents in the fields
- Detailing out the work protocol after discussion with the experts involved
- Execution of the work in laboratory
- Data interpretation and plan for next possible steps: in discussion with experts
- Execution of the experiments/tasks in a timely and efficient manner according to the overall project planning
- Preparing presentations for the meetings/reports.
- Scientific output and/or patent submission as a result of the work would be highly recommended
- Ensure compliance with VITO’s Health & Safety Policy, and take a proactive approach to ensure all experimental work is safe
Contact persons for more information:
- PhD in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering
- Background in heterogeneous catalysis and/or plastics is recommended
- Knowledge on working on process development is an asset, as well as conceptual design know how.
- You have a result-driven character capable of translating theory to practice and vice versa and are able to find solutions.
- You are proactive, motivated and an excellent team player who enjoys working in a multidisciplinary environment
- You are interested to acquire hands-on experience by running innovative experimental set-ups.
- You are fluent in English and eager to write scientific papers and/or patents
All information and applications here.