Renewable Aromatics from the Degradation of Polystyrene under Mild Conditions

  • Nouf M. Al Jabri

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Polystyrene (PS) is one of the most important polymers in the plastic sector due to its inexpensive cost as well as many preferred properties. Its international market is expected to achieve $28.2 billion by 2019. Although PS has a high calorific value of 87 GJ tonne-1, there is no a practical method to manage its waste but landfill. As a result, the PS debris in the oceans has reached 70% of the total plastic debris. This issue is considered as the main economical and environmental drivers of converting polystyrene waste into renewable chemical feedstocks. The aim of this work is to develop a catalyst for converting PS into renewable chemicals under mild conditions. We introduce FeCu/Alumina with excellent catalytic activity to fully degrade polystyrene with 66% liquid yield at 250 °C. The GC/MS confirmed that the primary products are in the gasoline range. Next, we present the bimetallic FeCo/Alumina and successfully we have obtained 100% PS conversion and 90% liquid yield with maintaining the products selectivity. Later, the tri-metallic FeCuCo/Alumina was synthesized and showed 100% PS conversion and 91% liquid yield. Surprisingly, ethylbenzene was the major product in which 80 wt. % was achieved with excellent reproducibility. Furthermore, the real waste Styrofoam was thermally and catalytically degraded at 250 °C. Interestingly, a high styrene content of 78 wt. % was recovered after 30 minutes of the reaction under mild conditions. Keeping in mind that a good balance between acidity and basicity is required to convert PS into aromatic under mild reaction conditions catalytically. Finally, the performance of the catalysts was compared to literature reports and showed novel liquid yields. In conclusion, we have synthesized cheap, easy to scale up, and efficient catalysts to fully degrade PS into high liquid yields of aromatics with excellent selectivity.
Date of AwardAug 2017
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorKuo-Wei Huang (Supervisor)


  • Polystyrene
  • Ethylbenzene selectivity
  • Low-temperature
  • Catalytic degradation
  • Styrene selectivity
  • Renewable-aromatics

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