The Scott Group Publishes New Findings in Science

Researchers develop an efficient, low-energy method for upcycling plastic waste into valuable molecules, creating a second life for waste plastics.

UCSB researchers have discovered a new catalytic route to transform waste plastic to valuable products via tandem hydrogenolysis/aromatization. Compared with conventional methods that require high temperatures (between 500 and 1000°C) to break down the polymer chains into smaller hydrocarbon molecules, the newly developed method converts polyethylene under relatively mild conditions (ca. 300°C) over a platinum on alumina (Pt/Al2O3) catalyst without the need for added hydrogen or solvent. Hydrogen generated in the reaction from aromatization serves to cut the polymer chains, making the overall transformation thermodynamically accessible despite the moderate reaction temperature. As a result, long-chain alkylaromatics are formed in high yields directly from waste hydrocarbon polymers. These products are widely used in solvents, paints, lubricants, detergents, pharmaceuticals, and many other industrial and consumer products.


Publication Team Members



Fan Zhang


Jiakai Sun


Dr. Susannah Scott


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Recent Notable Publications



Efficient, continuous N-Boc


Current Initiatives

Mellichamp Initiative in Sustainability

Sustainable Materials and Product Design

In 2014, Susannah Scott created the interdisciplinary Mellichamp Academic Initiative in Sustainable Materials and Product Design, in order to integrate broader sustainability considerations into research in the chemical sciences
and engineering. UC Santa Barbara provided the Initiative with a cluster of
four endowed Chairs. The Initiative’s scope includes assessment/minimization
of environmental impact and assessment/optimization of economic feasibility, cultivation of public awareness, and social acceptance of sustainability goals. Susannah Scott currently holds the Mellichamp Chair in Sustainable Catalytic Processing.

Visit the Sustainability Initiative website


Enhancing Success in Transfer Education for Engineering Majors

ESTEEM is an NSF-funded S-STEM scholarship program for academically-talented, low-income undergraduate students in Engineering. Led by Susannah Scott, the project is a partnership with Professor Mike Gerber in UC Santa Barbara's Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, and collaborators in four of our regional California Community Colleges (CCCs): Allan Hancock College, Oxnard College, Santa Barbara City College, and Ventura College. The goal is to facilitate transfer of engineering students between community college and four-year universities, understand barriers, promote their academic and professional success, and strengthen ties between CCC and UC faculty.

Visit the ESTEEM website

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