Carbon-dioxide-based microsortation of postconsumer polyolefins and its effect on polyolefin properties

Eddy Karmana, Sindee Simon, Robert Enick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Postconsumer polyolefin flake has been sorted using liquid carbon dioxide as a float-sink medium. This separation of PP and LDPE from HDPE was conducted at ambient temperature and a pressure that yielded a CO2 specific gravity of 0.955, causing the HDPE to sink and the LDPE and PP to float. Although this process provided a high-purity (99+%) HDPE product stream, the effect of immersing the plastics in liquid carbon dioxide at these conditions was not previously measured. Therefore, six HDPE samples, two LDPE samples, and five PP samples were exposed to high-pressure carbon dioxide for 20 min. After this exposure, the polyolefins did not foam when the carbon dioxide was rapidly vented from the vessel. The weight reduction averaged 0.17%, which was attributed to the dissolution of low-molecular-weight additives or contaminants present on the surface of the plastics. No significant change in the melting point or latent heat of melting was observed, indicating that the degree of crystallinity was not affected by the exposure to carbon dioxide. No reduction was observed in the temperature at which the onset of thermal degradation occurred, because of the low solubility and degree of extraction of thermal stabilizers during the immersion in carbon dioxide. These results indicated that no deleterious effects on the polyolefin properties were associated with this separation technique.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-444
Number of pages12
JournalPolymer-Plastics Technology and Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Density
  • Latent heat of melting
  • Microsortation
  • Polyolefins
  • Recycling
  • Thermal stability


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