Catalytic Depolymerization

Originally delivered Mar 17, 2020
  • Type:
    Archived Webinar
  • Level:
  • Duration:
    1 hour
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In the second half of the 20th century, the manufacturing of inexpensive synthetic polymers grew exponentially. Low cost polyolefins and polyesters in particular gradually became integral in most facets of modern life, including our food supply chain, health care industry, consumer products, construction and transportation sectors. In the 21st century, the chemical inertness of these polymers, long considered to be an advantage in many applications, is increasingly seen as problematic. For the large fraction of plastics used in packaging, lifetimes for discarded plastics that enter the natural environment inadvertently can be orders of magnitude longer than their service lives.1 One analysis suggested that the current rate of accumulation could result in the Earth’s oceans containing more plastic than fish by 2050.2 

Continued use of synthetic polymers in consumer-facing applications may depend on creating new technologies to achieve a circular economy for plastics. Conventional separations, followed by mechanical recycling, result in degradation of physical properties, and consequent loss of economic value. Less than 10% of all the polymers ever made have been recycled in this way.3 New chemical recycling strategies are now urgently sought.4 In this talk, Dr. Scott will describe some of the challenges and opportunities for selective catalytic transformations of synthetic polymers into new chemicals, fuels, and materials.



Susannah Scott

Scott received her B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Alberta (Canada) in 1987, and her Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Iowa State University in 1991, where she worked with J. Espenson and A. Bakac on the activation of O2 and organic oxidations. She was a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow with Jean-Marie Basset at the Institut de recherches sur la catalyse (CNRS) in Lyon, France, before joining the faculty of the University of Ottawa (Canada) in 1994 as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. She moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2003, where she is currently holds joint faculty appointments in both Chemical Engineering and Chemistry & Biochemistry. (click name for full bio)Read more

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