Alkaline reforming of brominated fire-retardant plastics: Fate of bromine and antimony

Jude A. Onwudili, Paul T. Williams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High-impact polystyrene (HIPS) flame retarded with decabromodiphenyl ether (DDE), has been reacted in supercritical water from 380 to 450 °C and 21.5 to 31.0 MPa pressure in a batch reactor. Different concentrations of sodium hydroxide additive were used in situ to neutralize the corrosive inorganic bromine species released during the reactions. It appeared that supercritical water conditions lowered the decomposition temperature of both the fire-retardant DDE and HIPS. The reaction products included oils (up to 76 wt%), char (up to 18 wt%) and gas (up to 2.4 wt%) which was mainly methane. The presence of the alkaline water led to up to 97 wt% debromination of the product oil, producing virtually bromine-free oil feedstock. The removal of antimony from the oil product during processing was of the order of 98 wt%. The oil consisted of many single- and multiple-ringed aromatic compounds, many of which had alkyl substituents and/or aliphatic Cn-bridges (n = 1-4). The major single-ringed compounds included toluene, xylenes, ethylbenzene, propylbenzene and α-methylstyrene. Bibenzyl (diphenylethane), stilbene, diphenylmethane, diphenylpropane, diphenylcyclopropane, diphenylpropene, diphenylbutane, diphenylbutene and diphenylbuta-1,3-diene were the major Cn-bridged compounds. Diphenyl ether and acetophenone were the major oxygenated compounds found. The process thus has the potential to produce bromine-free and antimony-free oils from fire-retardant plastics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-796
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2009


  • Plastics
  • Reforming
  • Supercritical water
  • Waste


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