Plastics is one of the most challenging materials to break down into harmless products. Reportedly, most of the 4.9 billion tonnes of plastics produced would end up in landfills, threatening human health and the environment.
Addressing the menace, the Indian Institute of Technology (IITM) researchers Mandi have developed a catalyst to efficiently transform plastic into hydrogen and other useful chemicals through a simple function of sunlight.
It is a significant development, considering that Hydrogen gas is the most practical non-polluting fuel of the future.
The plastic is converted into chemicals when exposed to light. When activated, they are called photocatalysts, India Today reports.
The photocatalyst combines iron oxide in the form of nanoparticles with a conducting polymer -polypyrrole. This forms a semiconductor-semiconductor heterojunction, which further converts into strong visible-light-induced photocatalytic activity.
Photocatalysts usually need UV light for activation and therefore require special bulbs.
The research is funded by the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC), the Ministry of Education. Their work has been published in the Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering.
The study consists of Dr Prem Fexil Siril, who leads the group, Professor, School of Basic Sciences, and Associate Professor, Dr Aditi Halder. The study is co-authored by their PhD scholars, Rituporn Gogoi, Astha Singh, Vedasree Moutam, Lalita Sharma, Kajal Sharma.