Rapid atom-efficient polyolefin plastics hydrogenolysis mediated by a well-defined single-site electrophilic/cationic organo-zirconium catalyst

Alexander H. Mason, Alessandro Motta, Anusheela Das, Qing Ma, Michael J. Bedzyk*, Yosi Kratish, Tobin J. Marks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Polyolefins comprise a major fraction of single-use plastics, yet their catalytic deconstruction/recycling has proven challenging due to their inert saturated hydrocarbon connectivities. Here a very electrophilic, formally cationic earth-abundant single-site organozirconium catalyst chemisorbed on a highly Brønsted acidic sulfated alumina support and characterized by a broad array of experimental and theoretical techniques, is shown to mediate the rapid hydrogenolytic cleavage of molecular and macromolecular saturated hydrocarbons under mild conditions, with catalytic onset as low as 90 °C/0.5 atm H2 with 0.02 mol% catalyst loading. For polyethylene, quantitative hydrogenolysis to light hydrocarbons proceeds within 48 min with an activity of > 4000 mol(CH2 units)·mol(Zr)−1·h−1 at 200 °C/2 atm H2 pressure. Under similar solventless conditions, polyethylene-co−1-octene, isotactic polypropylene, and a post-consumer food container cap are rapidly hydrogenolyzed to low molecular mass hydrocarbons. Regarding mechanism, theory and experiment identify a turnover-limiting C-C scission pathway involving ß-alkyl transfer rather than the more common σ-bond metathesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7187
JournalNature communications
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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