Hydrolytic depolymerization of PET in a microwave reactor

Recycling of PET was examined using hydrolytic depolymerization in an alkaline solution under microwave irradiation. The reaction was carried out in a sealed microwave reactor in which the pressure and temperature were controlled and recorded. The main products were the monomers TPA and EG. The effect of reaction temperature, time, amount of PET and alkaline concentration on the degree of PET depolymerization and TPA recovery was investigated. Microwave irradiation was found to reduce the time needed to achieve a specific degradation of PET significantly, with almost complete depolymerization occurring in 30 min at 180 °C and only 46 W of microwave power. Using a phase transfer catalyst (TOMAB) resulted in the same amount of unreacted PET but at significantly lower depolymerization temperatures.