Project code: PN-II-PT-PCCA-2013-4-1388      Contract number: 61/2014


Cellular materials with thermal insulation and fire resistance properties, via energetic efficient recycling process of PET wastes, for minimizing heat loss in civil and industrial buildings
Contracting authority: UEFISCDI - Unitatea Executiva pentru Finantarea Invatamantului Superior, a Cercetarii, Dezvoltarii si Inovarii

The project proposal refers to a sustainable process of obtaining rigid polyurethane (PUR) and polyisocyanurate (PIR) foams, cellular materials with excellent thermal insulating and fire resistance properties. The process consists in chemically recycling poly(ethyleneterephthalate) (PET) wastes, using as depolymerization and/or modification agents renewable materials, mainly carbohydrates and natural oils derivatives. Novel modified organocatalytic systems, different from conventional metallic compounds, will be developed and optimized in order to increase process performance, maximize energy efficiency and eliminate the need for solvents. The scientific challenge of the project consists in tailoring the novel catalytic systems, in order to drastically reduce energy consumption associated to the depolymerization reactions of PET wastes (in particular in the presence of some renewable materials), and enhance catalytic activity for these specific reactants, by using theoretical modeling, as well as experimental studies. In this respect, research will be conducted in two main directions: i) modifying existing organocatalysts, in order to improve their performance or their stability; ii) proposing new organocatalyst that have not been used yet in catalyzed PET solvolysis. A library of new modified organocatalysts and/or combinations thereof, with synergistic effect, suitable for selective solvolytic attack of PET by various cleavage agents, will be, finally, provided. Optimal versions will be selected, in order to be used to further develop the technology for rigid PUR/PIR foams preparation, from PET wastes and renewable resources.
Lab-scale technologies for synthesis of selected catalysts will furnish information, useful for modifying commercial organocatalysts into new structures, or use new organocatalysts for PET chemical recycling, in order to apply such energy efficient technologies, on industrial scale.
The main objective of the project consists in developing a series of oligoester-poliols with tuned chemical structure (i.e. rigid and/or flexible moieties content) and properties (adequate for specific applications), starting from PET wastes and renewable materials, by using the correlations between reaction parameters (including organocatalysts), the products’ chemical structure and target properties. Using these oligoesters and designing the foams formulations, polyurethane and polyisocyanurate thermo-insulating rigid foams with tailored chemical structure will be obtained, adapted for various applications and showing (in some embodiments) improved physico-mechanical and fire resistance properties The innovative and flexible pilot-scale technology for oligoester-polyols synthesis, using organocatalysts, as well as PET wastes and renewable resources as raw materials, would represent an exemplary case of meeting “green chemistry” standards by drastically reducing experimental conditions, eradicating the need for organic solvents, recycling a plastic waste which is accumulating in land fields and is not biodegradable, and providing, instead, innovative eco-friendly products, for long term applications. A innovative and flexible pilot-scale technology for PUR and PIR thermo-insulating rigid foams preparation using the respective oligoester-polyols will be developed, as well. As a total result, a sustainable technology, with low energy consumption, significantly reducing the price of rigid polyurethane foams, would provide an exceptional solution to replace materials commonly used for insulation in buildings with new materials exhibiting outstanding properties.