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Luca Mastropasqua
July 2, 2024

Mastropasqua earns ARPA-E IGNIITE 2024 award to transform waste plastic upcycling

Written By: Adam Malecek


Luca Mastropasqua, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been selected by the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to receive an Inspiring Generations of New Innovators to Impact Technologies in Energy 2024 (IGNIITE 2024) award.

IGNIITE 2024 focuses on early-career scientists and engineers converting disruptive ideas into impactful energy technologies. Mastropasqua will receive approximately $500,000 to advance research focused on waste plastic upcycling and will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on July 9, 2024.

Mastropasqua’s project is titled “Direct High-Temperature Electrochemical Hydrogenative Depolymerization for Waste Plastic Upcycling.”

Less than 7% of U.S. plastic products are currently recycled (15% globally), while the rest are either incinerated, landfilled or mismanaged. The persistence of polymers in the environment negatively impacts air and water quality for the global population, especially in disadvantaged communities, while jeopardizing biodiversity.

But this harmful waste can be channeled into resources. Waste plastics contain abundant, valuable and energy dense molecules useful for the chemical and fuel industry, and recovering the atomic content of such waste products could help synthesize value-added products from waste (upcycling).

Mastropasqua seeks to transform the waste plastic upcycling process by studying, developing and characterizing an innovative solid-state electrochemical membrane reactor and its thermal integration into a complete system. This will be achieved through high-temperature electrochemical hydrogenative depolymerization of waste polymers.

“I’m excited by the interdisciplinarity nature of this project and how it brings expertise in different fields together to solve some of the pressing environmental and sustainability problems in our society,” Mastropasqua says. “This project will produce advancements in electrocatalysis and electrochemistry, ceramic and metal additive manufacturing, polymer science and engineering design.”

Sebastian Kube, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was also selected to receive an ARPA-E IGNIITE 2024 award. Read about Kube’s project.

Read about the other IGNIITE 2024 projects here.