Upcycling spent petroleum cracking catalyst: pulsed laser deposition of single-wall carbon nanotubes and silica nanowires
Fluid catalytic cracking (FCC), which currently accounts for half of the worldwide petroleum refining efforts, relies on catalytic, aluminosilicate zeolite particles which slowly deactivate. As of yet, this FCC catalyst residue (FC3R) has no commercial outlet, resulting in abundant amounts of landfill-destined refuse. However, this overlooked waste has the right ingredients for the synthesis of some of today's emerging nanomaterials. High-carbon FC3R, sourced from a Uruguayan refinery, was identified as faujasite particles encased in graphitic carbon shells. We show that pulsed laser ablation of raw FC3R produces simultaneous deposition of single-wall carbon nanotubes and silica nanowires through vapour/solid–liquid–solid self-assembly in distinct zones of an oven-laser apparatus. This is an extreme revalorisation and provides a new untapped resource for research and applications in C- and Si-based nanomaterials and mesoscopic physics.