Solar thermal reactor model for pyrolysis of waste plastic

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McLachlan, G
Dau, VT
Woodfield, P
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The ability to convert waste plastic into combustible liquids and gases using solar energy could help transform the problem of disposal of non-recyclable plastic into a valuable and environmentally responsible source of fuel. The purpose of this study is to propose a practical model for a compound parabolic trough solar thermal reactor for pyrolysis of waste plastic. The model integrates predictions of energy available from solar radiation (at a given location, time of day and time of year) with parabolic trough collector orientation and efficiency, a transient energy balance for an evacuated tube reactor and pyrolysis kinetics of waste plastic. The experimental setup used to test the model includes a pyranometer, a commercial solar collector consisting of a 60 cm long evacuated tube with a compound parabolic reflector and multi-channel data loggers to collect temperature, humidity and radiation data. The solar radiation sub-model was found to be in excellent agreement with clear-sky irradiance data collected using the pyranometer. Predictions of reactor temperature and reaction rate were found to be sensitive to the concentrator aperture area, solar irradiance, type of plastic (Arrhenius kinetics) and radiation properties of the evacuated tube reactor but relatively insensitive to humidity, wind velocity and terrestrial irradiance. The model shows that even on a small scale, favourable conditions for pyrolysis of waste plastic can be achieved within a solar reactor.

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Australian Journal of Mechanical Engineering

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© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

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This publication has been entered in Griffith Research Online as an advanced online version.

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Mechanical engineering

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McLachlan, G; Dau, VT; Woodfield, P, Solar thermal reactor model for pyrolysis of waste plastic, Australian Journal of Mechanical Engineering, 2023