A review on carbon materials production from plastic wastes

Leilei Dai, Ozlem Karakas, Yanling Cheng, Kirk Cobb, Paul Chen, Roger Ruan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Approximately 36 million tons of waste plastics are generated in the United States each year, most of which are discharged into the environment and end in landfills. This is potentially a serious threat to the ecosystem and human health. Considering that the production of liquid fuels and chemicals from waste plastics is difficult to make profits and achieve zero carbon emissions, transforming waste plastics into high-quality carbon materials becomes more attractive. In this review, the production of carbon nanomaterials from different plastic materials is comprehensively discussed by an extensive list of processes developed in the past years. We show how the reactor design, catalyst types, and pyrolysis/catalysis temperature affect carbon nanomaterials' quality. In terms of catalysts, the variety of metals and supports, metal particle size, metal-support interaction, and calcination temperatures have changed the carbon nanomaterials' morphology, geometrical shape, and yield, so these parameters should be fine-tuned to improve the carbon quality. Furthermore, the existing characterization techniques for carbon materials are summaried and the potential applications of the carbon materials are outlooked. Although some satisfactory progress has been achieved, many fundamental research topics and applications, such as the effect of impurities, large-scale carbon quality evaluation, and potential application scenarios, still require lots of future effort. The plastics-to-carbon materials technology is very open for further research and is considered a promising route for recycling plastics in a more economical and environmentally friendly manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number139725
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the financial support from Resynergi, the University of Minnesota MnDrive Environment Program MNE12, China Scholarship Council (CSC), and the University of Minnesota Center for Biorefining.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


  • Application
  • Carbon materials
  • Characterization
  • Plastics
  • Pyrolysis


Dive into the research topics of 'A review on carbon materials production from plastic wastes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this