The research, carried out by Steven Lim, Shiraz Yusuf Patel Dawoodi and Khor Guat Kheng, final year students from the School of Chemical Engineering, USM, is titled, "Novel Catalytic Process for the Degredation of Waste Polymers into Fuels & Chemical Feedstock" and was exhibited at the three-day National Research and Innovation Exhibition 2009.
Steven Lim, the head of the research team, said that he and his friends began the research six months ago as a final year project. "We felt that we had to help overcome the issue of polymer waste management that is a major problem. Apart from the fact that we have to use a large area for landfills, it also results in environmental pollution if we attempt to dispose of it through burning. According to 2006 statistics, a total of 245 tons of plastics were used throughout the world. We know that hundreds of years can go by, but these products will not degrade naturally. The question now is, 'What can we do with these plastics?' This study gives us a novel alternative in overcoming the problem," he said.
According to the study, plastics that are to be processed for the production of petrochemical products first must be reduced to powder form and all foreign materials must be removed before it can undergo the next process which involves the addition of several specific catalysts.
"We were also successful in finding a suitable catalyst in producing the required petrochemical products and our research findings revealed that these products are of higher quality compared to those produced through the system that is currently being used," Lim said. He added that this finding will lead to many possibilities, especially in the process of protecting the environment for the next generation. "We also hope to continue this research at a higher level so that it is of benefit to mankind," he said.