Could cars one day run on plastic waste? Ames National Lab researchers aim to find out

Photo of the research team
From left: Kajol Tonk, Chao Meng, Yi-Yu Wang, and Aaron Sadow. Photo Credit: Brooklyn Fraisey/Iowa Capital Dispatch.

When Yi-Yu Wang pictures the future, she hopes for a day when someone can just pop an empty water bottle in a car’s tank when running low on gas in order to deliver the energy it needs to keep moving.

A graduate research assistant in the Ames National Laboratory-led Institute for Cooperative Upcycling of Plastics, or iCOUP, Wang along with other researchers is studying ways to break down non-recyclable plastic and convert it into chemicals and other materials.

While the team hasn’t quite made that breakthrough yet, the work they’re doing now could provide both a solution to the problem of growing plastic waste and products comparable to diesel, aviation fuel, lubricating oils and more.

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