Diamond in the rough: Polishing waste polyethylene terephthalate into activated carbon for CO2 capture

Shuangjun Li, Moon Kyung Cho, Ki Bong Lee, Shuai Deng, Li Zhao, Xiangzhou Yuan, Junyao Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The scientific community has believed the potential of waste PET plastics as an effective carbon precursor, however, developing PET-derived activated carbons (PETACs) for a specific application is still a challenge we are facing. To overcome the limitation, a whole chain from development method screening to experiments design, finally to sample optimization, for a sample with promising performance, is proposed in this work. By employing PETACs as CO2 adsorbents, the waste PET plastics, which we believed the “diamond in the rough”, have been polished successfully. Therewith the problems of plastic pollution and the greenhouse effect could be simultaneously solved. The first half part of this paper is a mini review: the PETACs development methods were reviewed and the most suitable solution to develop CO2 adsorbent, i.e., the two-step chemical activation method, was selected. In addition to that, the necessary procedure variables and their value range were determined. In the second half part, the central composite design method was applied for experiments design in which the procedure variables obtained were regarded as the independent indicators (factors here) while the performance indicators, including yield, CO2 adsorption uptake, and CO2 over N2 selectivity, were treated as the dependent indicators (responses here). The responses were obtained through the characterization of the samples developed and statistical analysis could be applied to reveal the relations between the factors and responses. A high-value PETAC, P600K600-1.5, with the highest gas selectivity (22.189) and decent CO2 adsorption uptake (3.933 mmol/g) was successfully designed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155262
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Aug 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful for the support provided by the National Key Research and Development Program of China under Grant No. 2017YFE0125100 , General Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant No. 51876134 , and the National Research Foundation of Korea through the Basic Science Research Program ( NRF-2020R1A2C2010815 ) funded by the Korean government's Ministry of Science and ICT and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. (No. G20IO11). In addition, the financial support from the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to the first author is gratefully acknowledged.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Activated carbon
  • CO adsorption
  • Central composite design
  • PET plastic waste
  • Procedure optimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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