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 (PERCIT)
UEFISCDI, PNII-PT-PCCA-2013-4-1388, no 61/2014

2012/27/EU Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on energy efficiency, stipulates that Member States should be required to set indicative national energy efficiency targets, schemes and programmes to make their entire building stock more energy efficient by 2050, includes policies and measures for cost-effective deep renovations, and states that 3% of floor area of central government buildings must be renovated annually. This renovation rate should be without prejudice to the obligations with regard to nearly-zero energy buildings (meaning buildings with very high energy performance) set in The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council. Effective thermal insulation makes an important contribution, as well, to the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol (thermal insulation can reduce CO2 emissions by 5% in Europe until 2020, which constitutes 60% of the Kyoto target). In addition, national politics of attaining international regulations concerning environment and bio-security, in accordance with the European environmental legislation: Waste Framework Directive, Directive 2008/98/EC regarding wastes, Packaging Wastes Directives 94/62/EC and 2006/12/EC, and national legislation upon related field have to be considered, as well.

Project abstract

The present 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(ethylene terephthalate) (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 optimised 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 modelling, as well as experimental studies. In this respect, researh 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 imbodiments) 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 landfields 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 and available for various applications, from building envelope to insulations for utility routs.