Biofuel from Plastic for this Young Egyptian Scientist from Alexandria

Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad, Egyptian young scientist, European Union Contest for Young Scientists, plastic to biofuel Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad was the winner of the 2011 European Union Contest for Young Scientists for finding a new way of turning plastic into biofuel.

A sixteen-year-old Egyptian student, Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad from the Zahran Language School in Alexandria has identified a new low-cost catalyst which can generate biofuel by breaking down plastic waste.

The idea of breaking down plastic polymers into fuel feedstocks, the bulk raw material used for producing biofuel , is not a new idea. But Faiad has found a high yield catalyst, aluminosilicate catalyst, that breaks down plastic waste producing gaseous products like methane, propane and ethane, which are then converted into ethanol to use as biofuel.

Faiad and her mentors propose using this discovery to exploit Egypt’s high plastic consumption, which is estimated to amount to one million tons per year, and make money from recycled plastic! She calculates that this technology “can provide an economically efficient method for production of hydrocarbon fuel namely: cracked naphtha of about 40,000 tons per year and hydrocarbon gases of about 138,000 tons per year equivalent to $78 million.”

As we know plastic waste is a huge problem in the Middle East and for our oceans, but hopefully this idea will help convert the problem into a solution.

For her findings, Faiad was presented with the European Fusion Development Agreement award at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists — involving 130 competitors from 37 countries — held in Finland last year from 23t o 28 September.

Faiad  is now looking to get her findings patented this year through the Egyptian Patent Office and scaling up the idea so that it can become a tangible project on the ground.

She has already garnered interests from the Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute.

Out of the six projects in the environmental section of the contest, three came from Egypt.

Digesting paper with termites?

Aside from Faiad, two other young Egyptian scientists Hassan Ahmed and Yomna Yasser Mohamed, proposed interesting solutions to environmental issues. Hassan Ahmed  looked at managing  paper product waste through termite digestion; the paper is digested by the termites which then enrich the soil with potassium, phosphor and nitrogen  and can be used as fertilizers, the termites also  produce  hydrogen which can be used as a renewable source of energy.

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Jatropha plants for biofuel

Yasser Mohamed’s project instead looked at producing a clean and green source of energy that could be manufactured locally in poor rural areas in Egypt. The project selected a plant which is not linked to the food chain , the jatropha plant, to investigate whether it’s oil, methanol, and KOH, which are blended to make bio-diesel, could be produced using different parts of the plant.

Will young Egyptian scientists continue to be at the forefront of environmental solutions? Let’s hope so.

Image via European Commission Research; Image of jatropha plant from Shutterstock

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15 thoughts on “Biofuel from Plastic for this Young Egyptian Scientist from Alexandria”

  1. tamara tasbiha says:

    The fuel is produced from plastic. why we call it BIOFUEL?

  2. Great job Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad! For converting plastics into biofuels. As sixteen-year-old student you mange to come up with such inventions and at the early age you can help lessen the number of pollution by using plastics as your raw material..

  3. Farida says:

    Hello! Do you know how I can contact any of the scientists for an interview? Egypt should know about these young scientists who provide us with hope amidst these dark times.

  4. Yasir Khalil says:

    Assalamu alikum.
    That is a big task to be done.I appreciate this young scientist.
    I am from Pakistan, and we are facing trouble in fuel availability in the form of CNG.Can bio fuel be used as a combustion of fire?
    Thanks and regards

  5. Mamdouh Hatem says:

    I appreciate this young scientist

  6. Mamdouh Hatem says:

    Hi Jim and Linda,

    Further to the products mentioned in this report. I know that Synthetic Lubricants can be produced by cracking Polyethylene. Ethane can be one of the products, and then it can be polymerized to produce synthetic oils, synthetic Diesel or even wax. This is known as Fischer-Tropsch Reactions. I think Designers of Fischer- Tropsch reactors should approach this young scientist.


  7. Daryl Pullen says:

    I have utmost respect for this lady. What an inspiration.

  8. Jim Lunt says:

    Hi Linda many thanks for the fast response. The reason I asked if this was pure HDPE is twofold:
    If it is a mix of several plastics, PET, PVC,PP, PE, Polyurethanes etc then other gases (i.e. HCL, NO2) would probably also be produced? and they would have to be removed.
    Secondly I did find this article:
    Production of Hydrocarbon Fuel by Catalytic Cracking of High Density Polyethylene Wastes

    It was estimated that the total consumption of plastics in Egypt is 1000,000 tones. This paper aims to present advantageous and environmentally friendly method of managing polyethylene plastic wastes, by converting them into fuel feed-stocks through catalytic cracking over different catalysts. Three experiments were designed with different three catalysts (clay-Y-zeolite-commercial aluminosilicate) with concentration 20% and the other parameters were fixed. Products were analyzed by gas chromatography. According to the results it was found that Commercial aluminosilicate catalyst gave the highest yields among these experiments while zeolite gave the lowest yields. This technology can provide an economically efficient method for production of hydrocarbon fuel namely: cracked naphtha of about 40,000 tons per year and hydrocarbon gases of about 138,000 tons per year equivalent to 78,000,000$.
    The results do still sound interesting but I just want to make sure I do not communicate any incorrect information.
    Thanks again

  9. Linda Pappagallo says:

    Hi Jim
    Thank you for your interest in the article. From what I understand the next step involves finding a practical and efficient way of carrying this out with plastic waste. The project did not specify whether this process worked with HDPE or mixed plastic. The term bio fuel was used in the project presented, the catalyst is used to produce the fuel feedstock. In any case, I agree bio-fossil fuel would be a more correct term , seeing as strictly speaking a biofuel is must contain 80% renewable material…

  10. Jim Lunt says:

    I read with interest the work done by Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad in converting waste plastics into biofuels. It appears a very promising approach. I do have a couple of questions though.
    I presume the waste plastic is HDPE and not mixed plastics?
    If the HDPE is oil based and used to make ethanol then the ethanol is not a bio fuel since no material of biological origin is used unless the HDPE came from a biological source (i.e. Braskem). It may be correct to say it is a bio-fossil fuel but I am not sure.
    Can you provide clarification?
    Thanks In advance

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