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Waste turned into a biofuel catalyst that is cheaper and better than its commercial equivalent

Dirty aluminium foil has been recycled into an alumina catalyst that is more active and cheaper than its commercial counterpart.


The approach could reduce the amount of aluminium foil going to landfill while sidestepping the environmental damage associated with mining bauxite – the ore which aluminium is extracted from.

It’s generally easy to recycle aluminium if it’s clean. But aluminium foil is usually contaminated by grease and oils from food or, in a lab setting, adhesives and tapes. Since contaminants can damage recycling equipment and create an inferior end product, countless tonnes of waste foil is landfilled or incinerated every year.

It was a problem that Ahmed Osman, a researcher at Queen’s University Belfast, sought to remedy after spotting aluminium foil waste at his institute. Previously, he developed a way to convert aluminium waste into alumina catalysts for producing the biofuel dimethyl ether (DME). Now, Osman and colleagues have come up with a crystallisation method to obtain pure aluminium salts from contaminated waste foil.

More information about this work in the recent publication by Osman et al.