Aliphatic Amines from Waste Polyolefins by Tandem Pyrolysis, Hydroformylation, and Reductive Amination

Houqian Li, Amy Cuthbertson, Ahmad Amer Alamer, Victor Cecon, Harish Radhakrishnan, Jiayang Wu, Greg Curtzwiler, Keith Vorst, Xianglan Bai, Clark Landis, Gregg Beckham, George Huber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pyrolysis of waste plastics can produce a product mixture with a high concentration of olefins (>50 wt%). The olefins, as building blocks in the petroleum industry, are potential precursors for valuable commodity chemicals with higher values (>$2000 per ton). In this work, we produce aldehydes by hydroformylation of the olefins present in pyrolysis oil from colored post-consumer recycled high-density polyethylene (PCR-HDPE). The obtained aldehydes in the oil are then converted into aliphatic amines via reductive amination with a Ru/C catalyst. The aminated oil was characterized by multiple analytical chemistry techniques including elemental analysis, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, high-resolution liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry with a Polyarc flame ionization detector. The concentration of metals in the PCR-HDPE and oil changes during the tandem processes, showing limited effects of these elements (e.g., Al, Ca, Fe, Mg, Ti, Zn) on hydroformylation and reductive amination. Additionally, we demonstrated that reductive amination of aldehydes with varied carbon numbers and branching properties can be achieved in the presence of a complex mixture, including paraffins and aromatics. The results indicate that waste plastics have the potential to serve as a renewable source for mono and di aliphatic amines, thereby diminishing reliance on fossil feedstocks as the current primary amine source.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages10
JournalGreen Chemistry
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2A00-89315


  • aliphatic amines
  • catalysis
  • hydroformylation
  • reductive amination
  • upcycling
  • waste plastics


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