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Spotlight Feature – Dr. Mazharul M Islam

Spotlight Feature – Dr. Mazharul M Islam

Doctoral Researcher

Cardiff University

I am a computational chemist working in multidisciplinary areas including energy storage and green heterogeneous catalysis. At present, I am working with Dr Alberto Roldan and Prof Richard Catlow at Cardiff University on designing suitable catalysts for polyolefin upcycling. The existing plastic recycling approaches are mechanical-based on either post-production (primary) or post-consumption (secondary), in which plastics are transformed into new materials. These approaches can be considered downcycling from both the material property and economic perspective and, therefore, cannot enable a fully circular plastics economy. Chemical recycling (tertiary) of plastics depolymerizes them into bulk chemicals that can either synthesize the same plastic with virgin-like material properties or convert them into another material, and therefore, is the focus of my study.

The deconstruction and upcycling of polyolefin and other C-C linked polymers rely on three mechanisms. (a) C-H activation through dehydrogenation to olefins. (b) Cross metathesis (including hydrogenation) which rearranges the chemical functionalities of the olefins. This process produces a distribution of alkane products from polyolefins. (c) Functionalization by oxidation to form alcohols, epoxides, carboxylic acids, ketones etc. In my research, I have studied the C-C and C-H bond activation of a pentane molecule on Pt and Ru surfaces by dehydrogenation, hydrogenation and partial oxidation mechanisms. My study shows that the dehydrogenation of pentane yields pentene (both 1-pentene and 2-pentene). This work is accepted for publication by ChemCatCem (accepted, 2024). The hydrogenation of pentane yielded smaller alkanes ranging from methane to butane, in agreement with the experimental work of Liverpool group (Appl. Cat. A. 2023, 666, 119431). I am now at the final stage of my work on partial oxidation of pentane which yields alcohol, water and pentene.

I have presented my work at the workshop titled “Interdisciplinary Plastics Marketplace” of Cardiff University on 6th December 2023. Due to our Centre’s achievement of the IChemE 2023 Global Award, I have been invited for a public reception by a citizens platform comprised by academics and policymakers in Bangladesh. I shall give a talk on “Defossilization and Circular Chemical Economy”. The programme will be held on 3rd February 2024.