As demand for the engineering plastic polyamide 6.6 (PA66) continues to grow worldwide, Tokyo-based Asahi Kasei and Osaka-based Microwave Chemical have announced a joint demonstration project aimed at commercializing a new chemical recycling process for PA66 using microwave technology. The project’s objective is to depolymerize PA66 to directly obtain the monomers hexamethylenediamine (HMD) and adipic acid (ADA) with high yields and low energy consumption.
PA66 is widely used in various applications, including plastic parts for automotive and electronic products, as well as yarns for airbag fabrics, due to its excellent heat resistance and rigidity. However, the production process for PA66 can be unsustainable and rely heavily on fossil fuels.
Chemical recycling, which breaks down plastic waste into its constituent monomers to create new plastic, offers a potential solution to this problem. However, traditional chemical recycling methods can be energy-intensive and inefficient, making them less economically viable than conventional plastic production methods.
In this regard, Microwave Chemical’s proprietary PlaWave technology platform, which uses microwaves to decompose plastic, could be a game-changer. Laboratory-scale studies conducted in 2021 confirmed the high-yield depolymerization of PA66 using microwaves, as well as the principle of the separation and purification process after depolymerization.
Under the joint demonstration project, Microwave Chemical’s PlaWave technology will depolymerize scraps from manufacturing and post-use waste material of PA66 for airbags and automotive parts. Asahi Kasei currently produces fossil fuel-derived HMD and ADA as intermediates to manufacture Leona PA66. By using recycled HMD and ADA to manufacture Leona PA66, the company could significantly reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and promote a circular economy by reducing waste and promoting the reuse of resources.
Bench-scale equipment for the new chemical recycling process will be assembled at Microwave Chemical’s Osaka factory by the end of 2023, and a small-scale demonstration trial using this equipment will be performed in 2024 to collect basic process data for commercialization.
The successful development of this sustainable chemical recycling process could have a significant impact on the PA66 industry, reducing its environmental impact and promoting circularity. With the growing demand for sustainable solutions, this collaboration between Asahi Kasei and Microwave Chemical could be a step towards a more sustainable future.