Abstract

Development of alternative carbonaceous sources for energy production is essential to alleviate the dependence on depleting fossil fuels which led to increasing atmospheric CO2 and thus global warming. While biomass utilization for energy and chemical production has been extensively studied in the literature, such studies on municipal solid wastes is difficult to interpret due to the heterogeneous nature of the waste. Understanding of the influence of individual components is necessary for comprehensive development of waste-to-energy pathway. One such waste that is complicated and has often been ignored in the literature is composite polymer absorbent material waste which can also be considered as a potential feedstock for thermochemical pathway of energy production. Composite polymer absorbent materials are ubiquitously used these days in the form of sanitary napkins, diapers, water blockers, fire blockers and surgical pads due to their high water-absorptive nature. Pyrolysis and CO2 gasification is ideal for such materials due to its versatile feedstock intake and uniform product output in the form of syngas with adjustable composition. CO2 gasification also provides the added benefit of CO2 utilization which provides carbon offset to this process. In the present study, a mixture of cellulose, absorbent material (sodium polyacrylate), polypropylene and polystyrene in a fixed proportion, to model approximate composition of a diaper, was examined for its pyrolysis and CO2 gasification capability for viable syngas production. The influence of individual components into the syngas yield from the composite waste gasification was also investigated. A fixed-bed, semi-batch reactor facility along with gas chromatography was employed to analyse the syngas yield and compositional evolution. Pyrolysis was done under nitrogen atmosphere and gasification was done under CO2 atmosphere. CO2 gasification provided net CO2 consumption which means a net reduction in carbon emissions per joule of energy produced. The sample was tested under four isothermal conditions of 973, 1073, and 1173 K to understand the impact of operational conditions on the syngas yield. Influence of individual component of the composite absorbent waste on the syngas yield and composition was also analyzed by comparing these syngas characteristics with that of the yield from gasification of its individual components separately at 1173 K. These investigations provided us with novel results on the behavior and capabilities of these composite polymer absorbent wastes and which opens up a new avenue towards efficient utilization of solid waste resources for sustainable energy production in the form of syngas which can also be used for various chemicals production such as methanol, gasoline and other petrochemical products.

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