By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Energy
A 16-year-old Egyptian high school student has just come up with a way to turn non-biodegradable plastic waste into clean-burning biofuel.
Ah, teenagers these days. With their love for fast cars and power-hungry gadgets, it shouldn't be too surprising that being environmentally responsible is probably the last thing on their mind. But every once in a while you'll get a youngster who goes way above and beyond the call of duty.
Meet Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad. The 16-year-old Egyptian high schooler has just come up with a way to turn non-biodegradable plastic waste into clean-burning biofuel. Considering that in Egypt about 1 million tons of discarded plastic pile up in landfills each year, her discovery would allow the country convert all that trash into $78 million worth of ethanol annually.
This is all made possible by an catalyst called aluminosilicate. Comprised of aluminium, silicon, and oxygen, aluminosilicate minerals have been used in the past to produce the strong, impact-resistant glass found in helicopters and smartphones. But what Faiad discovered was that, as a catalyst, it can also be harnessed to break down plastic polymers to produce methane, propane and ethane -- all of which can be used as raw stock for producing ethanol. This type of conversion has been proposed before, though Fiad's idea would generate higher overall yields of ethanol.
- Related post: 13-year-old student finds cure for hiccups
- Related post: Why 13-year-old's solar power 'breakthrough' won't work
Such a breakthrough “can provide an economically efficient method for production of hydrocarbon fuel namely: cracked naphtha of about 40,000 tons per year and hydrocarbon gases of about 138,000 tons per year equivalent to $78 million,” Faiad explains.
The good news is discoveries like this don't go unnoticed. The 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists recently honored her achievements with the European Fusion Development Agreement award and she's also reportedly garnered interest from the Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute.
For now, Faiad is working through the Egyptian Patent Office to copyright and eventually scale up the idea.
- Bye bye imported oil? New tech converts junk plastics into fuel
- Breakthrough may lead to 'limitless' supply of hydrogen fuel
- New invention turns plastic bags into oil
- 10-year-old student accidentally discovers explosive new molecule
- College student invents 'water-less shower'
- Was Steve Jobs the greatest innovator of all time?
- Chinese farmer builds his own wind-powered car
- Meet Dr. Nakamats, world's most prolific innovator
- Shocking invention: A Tesla lightning gun
Aug 7, 2012
I am a representative from Plastipak Packaging, and it is always inspiring to see our youth becoming involved in technological advances that will better our world. Recognizing the accomplishments of young people such as that of Ms. Faiad is important. On our facebook page, we are thrilled that we can present job opportunities in this industry to innovative and creative people who's capabilities should be utilized to their full potential. Visit us, like us and explore here: https://www.facebook.com/plastipakpackaginginc
I don't understand why you would want to turn the methane (or propane for that matter) into ethanol. Methane and propane are clean burning gases and methane can even be used in gasoline burning engines with just a minor modification. Plus adding the extra step increases the converion cost.
While I hope the process is economical, over the past few years there have been any number of announcements about plans to turn trash into oil or some other fuel (just google "trash into oil"). I won't get excited until I see it being done on a large scale for a profit.
The process of turning plastic into a gaseous/liquid fuel (as opposed to just burning it) is a great idea and it's nice that so many people/companies are working on it. Why it hasn't yet caught fire (pun intended) is puzzling. Perhaps there is some glitch we're not told about that keeps it from being economically feasible. (Note to Mr. Nguyen: Don't think this fuel can accurately be called "biofuel" since the source material is not organic, nor is the process.)
Given the vast quantities of plastic containers going into landfills globally, a process that pays for itself - breaks even - would be a huge benefit even if doesn't turn a profit.
I thought cycling one fossil product into another was a good idea 40 years ago and wondered when it would be done. Also, I strongly agree that the "biofuel" label is inappropriate. Cycling fossil products into another fossil product is not biofuel. It is however, a good alternative to wasting it in landfills and the ocean.