A demonstration project to chemically recycle nylon using microwave-based technology has been initiated by the Japanese chemical companies Asahi Kasei and Microwave Chemical, according to media reports.
The two businesses claim they anticipate the research would result in the high yield and low energy commercial chemical recycling of nylon 66, also known as polyamide 66.
Microwaves are used in the process to depolymerize PA66 and obtain the monomers hexamethylenediamine (HMD) and adipic acid (ADA) for the direct production of fresh PA66.
Asahi Kasei now creates intermediates made from fossil fuels to make Leona PA663, an engineering plastic with exceptional heat resistance and rigidity.
The demand for PA66, which is used in a variety of items like airbag fabric yarn and plastic components for automobiles and electronics, is anticipated to rise globally.
Microwave Chemical’s proprietary PlaWave technology platform uses microwaves to heat target substances with high energy efficiency to break down plastics for chemical recycling.
By combining their expertise, the two companies aim to commercialise a manufacturing process for PA66 that can reduce GHG emissions compared to conventional manufacturing.
Laboratory-scale studies that began in 2021 have confirmed the high-yield depolymerisation of PA66 using microwaves, as well as the principle of the separation and purification process,
Bench-scale equipment will now be assembled at Microwave Chemical’s Osaka factory this year. This will be used in a small trial next year to collect process data ahead of a decision on commercialization in 2025.
For the demonstration trial, scraps from manufacturing and post-use waste material of PA66 for airbags and automobile parts will be depolymerized.
“By verifying the process from depolymerization to separation and purification in an integrated manner, this demonstration project aims to enable resource circulation of PA66 for further reduction of GHG emissions,” said the partners in a statement.
“Concurrently with the small-scale demonstration trial, construction of a business model that involves the entire value chain in the chemical recycling of PA66 will be advanced, aiming to achieve a circular economy together with stakeholders in the PA66 value chain.”