CRUDE OIL FROM PLASTIC WASTE
– ALKA ZADGAONKAR
Hello to all!
Recently I went out with bunch of friends among which few were new. So we were looking at some pictures and facts about super cars meanwhile one of my friend was telling the other one while addressing me that “You know she is a girl (no doubt about that) and she is fond of cars!” This is the perception of people all around the globe that girls and automobile doesn’t really make a match. And here we are, trying to prove those crazy heads wrong. Maybe at times women really are bad with traffic system or maintaining the fun over driving the wheels, but man you need to step out of this box and see women creating big difference in automobile section since 80s and uptil now.
We will be talking about one such lady hailing not from America or anywhere far from us in the globe but totally an Indian growing her roots in Nagpur industry- Alka Zadgaonkar. A chemistry lover carries special love for polymers and plastics. Her fascination for polymers made her contribute this big in automobile sector today by inventing special kind of crude oil extracted from waste plastic. This oil is not only limited with its application in automobile sector but is also extremely fit as a source of energy to power our thirsty thermal power plants, DG sets, boiler and agricultural pumps.
Zadgaonkar’s story began sometime in 1992, when she started researching polymers. “I have always loved the versatility of plastic, but something had to be done with plastic waste.” According to a 2003 Central Pollution Control Board study, of the over 10,000 metric tons of plastic waste, including industrial and imported plastic waste, generated daily in our country, only 40 per cent is recycled. The rest just lies there, poisoning the environment.
Finally, on a December morning eight years ago, ZADGAONKAR knew she was on to something when the 300gm of plastic waste she was processing in her college lab broke down into a dark brown liquid. A few minutes later, a colleague came rushing in and asked her to check for a leakage in the lab’s LPG pipeline. His misplaced alarm was further and happy confirmation of the fact that the derivative was indeed liquid hydrocarbons.
The next couple of years saw the professor bring down the reaction parameters (temperature, pressure and conversion time were high in the initial stages) to feasible levels through improved catalytic additives. And, thoroughly aware of the failures of lab-scale inventions in scaled-up environments, ZADGAONKAR upped the capacity a 100 times. The result was more hydrocarbons, which could then be fractionally distilled to derive petrol, diesel or LPG.
“Plastic is made from crude, if you break it down what you get is liquid hydrocarbon. One kilogram of waste plastic produces a litre of hydrocarbon”, explained by Zadgaonkar once. What’s remarkable about Zadgaonkar’s effort is not depolymerisation or the breaking down of plastic into hydrocarbons ” a fair number of scientists over the world have achieved that. “But all the other processes are too expensive, hers is very cheap,’’ says R Subba Rao, head of department of polymers, Amrita School of Engineering, Coimbatore.
“You also don’t need to segregate plastic waste and there is absolutely no residue”, adds Rao.
Considering the economic advantages, it’ll slash a fair percentage of our crude import bill and you can derive LPG, petrol, kerosene, high speed diesel. If the current procedure derived by Alka Zadgaonkar is followed then this crude oil will cost us almost 40percent lesser than the current pocket emptying prices of petrol and diesel!
So, yes I’m a girl and is fond of cars and automobiles and there are thousands and millions of other girls like me out there possessing the same likeliness and some even contributing big for the industry like Alka Zadgaonkar and many more we discussed about in our previous articles. Women are blessed with powers to prove her excellence even in those fields where men expect them to be hardly seen. Automobile is definitely one such field. And the number of such women shall be multiplied to double, 10 or much higher figure in coming future. Long live the bond of Women and Automobile!! See ya soon. 🙂