Researchers find scrap tyres can be turned into sulfur-free oil

Researchers at Monash University have discovered a new way to create sulfur-free oil using scrap tyres, a coffee grinder, a freezer and a furnace.

Believed to be the first study of its kind, chemical engineers at Monash found strong synergies between tyre scraps and plastics like low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and polystyrene.

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Using the process known as rapid pyrolysis, which involved subjecting the plastics and tyres to high temperatures over a short time, it effectively eliminated the production of hazardous sulphur-containing compounds that are normally found in the liquid oil produced from the breakdown of tyres.

Chemical and biological engineering professor Lian Zhang says LDPE and polystyrene are both very commonly used across a range of consumer goods including packaging, plastic bags and films, bottles and containers and even medical disposables.

“Adding these plastics and using this process to break down tyres can substantially reduce the risk of releasing hazardous materials into the environment,” Zhang says.

“We believe our findings provide a very solid foundation and justification for using co-pyrolysis as an effective and value-added technology for upcycling potentially troublesome waste products.”

The findings have recently been published in the international journal Waste Management, where researchers where able to go into detail about the interactions between the chemical components in the system.

The Monash team is already undertaking further work to develop and optimise the technology with the aim of enhancing the yield and the quality of the sulphur-free light oil produced by the process.

The research is being supported by Tyre Stewardship Australia, a tyre industry organisation that promotes the development of viable markets for end-of-life tyres.


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