Two Mesoporous Domains Are Better Than One for Catalytic Deconstruction of Polyolefins

Akalanka Tennakoon, Xun Wu, Max Meirow, Daniel Howell, Jarod Willmon, Jiaqi Yu, Jessica V. Lamb, Massimiliano Delferro, Erik Luijten, Wenyu Huang*, Aaron D. Sadow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Catalytic hydrogenolysis of polyolefins into valuable liquid, oil, or wax-like hydrocarbon chains for second-life applications is typically accompanied by the hydrogen-wasting co-formation of low value volatiles, notably methane, that increase greenhouse gas emissions. Catalytic sites confined at the bottom of mesoporous wells, under conditions in which the pore exerts the greatest influence over the mechanism, are capable of producing less gases than unconfined sites. A new architecture was designed to emphasize this pore effect, with the active platinum nanoparticles embedded between linear, hexagonal mesoporous silica and gyroidal cubic MCM-48 silica (mSiO2/Pt/MCM-48). This catalyst deconstructs polyolefins selectively into ∼C20-C40 paraffins and cleaves C-C bonds at a rate (TOF = 4.2 ± 0.3 s-1) exceeding that of materials lacking these combined features while generating negligible volatile side products including methane. The time-independent product distribution is consistent with a processive mechanism for polymer deconstruction. In contrast to time- and polymer length-dependent products obtained from non-porous catalysts, mSiO2/Pt/MCM-48 yields a C28-centered Gaussian distribution of waxy hydrocarbons from polyolefins of varying molecular weight, composition, and physical properties, including low-density polyethylene, isotactic polypropylene, ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene, and mixtures of multiple, post-industrial polyolefins. Coarse-grained simulation reveals that the porous-core architecture enables the paraffins to diffuse away from the active platinum site, preventing secondary reactions that produce gases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17936-17944
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 16 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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