Depolymerization of waste poly(methyl methacrylate) scraps and purification of depolymerized products
Publication date: 1 February 2019
Source: Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 231
Author(s): Chirag B. Godiya, Serena Gabrielli, Stefano Materazzi, Maria Savina Pianesi, Nicola Stefanini, Enrico Marcantoni
A big challenge for the civilization in energy saving/waste management can be “the regeneration of monomers from the waste plastics followed by their re-polymerization” using an ideal recycling method. Herein, we investigate the thermal depolymerization of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) using thermogravimetric analysis coupled with mass spectrometry (TGA-MS). In this process, the polymer chains were decomposed to methyl methacrylate (MMA) in high yield and the degradation species were thoroughly characterized. The obtained MMA contained traces of byproducts. Firstly, the byproducts were found to be nonpolymerizable, secondly, their presence interrupt the polymerization reaction, and thirdly, they reduce the quality of re-polymerized PMMA (r-PMMA). This study reclaims that besides the main byproduct (methyl isobutyrate), traces of methyl pyruvate and 2,3-butanedione were also formed during the thermal depolymerization of PMMA. The formed 2,3-butanedione was found to be responsible for the unpleasant smell in the recovered MMA that also found itself in the r-PMMA. Further, the generated byproducts were eliminated from the r-PMMA by a dissolution/re-precipitation method. The structural characterizations of the recycled and purified PMMA were carried out by Fourier-transform-infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), Hydrogen-1 (1H)- and Carbon-13 (13C)-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and gel permeation chromatography (GPC). The chemical properties of the r-PMMA and purified PMMA proved to be similar to that of the virgin commercial PMMA. This study can provide an effective and practical prototype for the recycling of waste PMMA scraps and thus reduction in pollution caused by the landfilling of waste PMMA scraps.