Control of steam input to the pyrolysis-gasification of waste plastics for improved production of hydrogen or carbon nanotubes

Jonathan C. Acomb, Chunfei Wu, Paul T. Williams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been proven to be possible as high-value by-products of hydrogen production from gasification of waste plastics. In this work, steam content in the gasification process was investigated to increase the quality of CNTs in terms of purity. Three different plastics-low density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS) were studied in a two stage pyrolysis-gasification reactor. Plastics samples were pyrolysed in nitrogen at 600°C, before the evolved gases were passed to a second stage where steam was injected and the gases were reformed at 800°C in the presence of a nickel-alumina catalyst. To investigate the effect that steam plays on CNT production, steam injection rates of 0, 0.25, 1.90 and 4.74gh-1 were employed. The CNTs produced from all three plastics were multiwalled CNTs with diameters between 10 and 20nm and several microns in length. For all the plastic samples, raising the steam injection rate led to increased hydrogen production as steam reforming and gasification of deposited carbon increased. High quality CNTs, as observed from TEM, TPO and Raman spectroscopy, were produced by controlling the steam injection rate. The largest yield for LDPE was obtained at 0gh-1 steam injection rate, whilst PP and PS gave their largest yields at 0.25gh-1. Overall the largest CNT yield was obtained for PS at 0.25gh-1, with a conversion rate of plastic to CNTs of 32wt%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-584
JournalApplied Catalysis B: Environmental
Early online date25 Sep 2013
Publication statusPublished - 05 Apr 2014


  • Carbon nanotubes
  • Hydrogen
  • Plastics
  • Waste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology


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