Plastic bottles could be recycled into chemical filters

Ola Habboud (left), Suzana Nunes and Bruno Pulido discuss their PET membrane technologyKAUST

In the chemical-production industry, energy-intensive processes are constantly being used to remove unwanted molecules from liquids. It now looks like much of that energy could be saved, however, by utilizing filters made from discarded plastic bottles.

According to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST), approximately 40 percent of the energy consumed in chemical plants is utilized in purification processes such as distillation and crystallization. Conventional filtration membranes typically can't be used instead, as they get degraded by the harsh solvents that are often present. Tougher ceramic membranes are one alternative, although they tend to be quite expensive.

With these limitations in mind, KAUST scientists looked to the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic that is frequently used in the production of items such as single-use water bottles. Unlike the materials which existing low-cost filtration membranes are made of, PET is "mechanically and chemically robust," allowing it to withstand exposure to harsh compounds. Read full article..