Catalytic upcycling of high-density polyethylene via a processive mechanism

Akalanka Tennakoon, Xun Wu, Alexander L. Paterson, Smita Patnaik, Yuchen Pei, Anne M. LaPointe, Salai C. Ammal, Ryan A. Hackler, Andreas Heyden, Igor I. Slowing, Geoffrey W. Coates, Massimiliano Delferro, Baron Peters, Wenyu Huang, Aaron D. Sadow, Frédéric A. Perras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The overconsumption of single-use plastics is creating a global waste catastrophe, with widespread environmental, economic and health-related consequences. Here we show that the benefits of processive enzyme-catalysed conversions of biomacromolecules can be leveraged to affect the selective hydrogenolysis of high-density polyethylene into a narrow distribution of diesel and lubricant-range alkanes using an ordered, mesoporous shell/active site/core catalyst architecture that incorporates catalytic platinum sites at the base of the mesopores. Solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance revealed that long hydrocarbon macromolecules readily move within the pores of this catalyst, with a subsequent escape being inhibited by polymer–surface interactions, a behaviour that resembles the binding and translocation of macromolecules in the catalytic cleft of processive enzymes. Accordingly, the hydrogenolysis of polyethylene with this catalyst proceeds processively to yield a reliable, narrow and tunable stream of alkane products. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-901
Number of pages9
JournalNature Catalysis
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Process Chemistry and Technology


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