Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

IIT Madras converts petroleum waste toluene into useful product


From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Toluene

Mains level: Not much


What is Toluene?

  • Toluene is one of the petrochemical wastes that get released without treatment from industries such as refineries, paint, textile, paper and rubber.
  • It is a colorless, water-insoluble liquid with the smell associated with paint thinners.
  • Toluene has been reported to cause serious health problems to aquatic life, and studies point that it has genotoxic and carcinogenic effects on human beings.

Converting Toluene into Benzene

  • Using platinum nanocatalyst, a team of researchers at the IIT-M has successfully converted petroleum waste-product toluene into benzoic acid.
  • Toluene when oxidised gets converted into benzoic acid.
  • Benzoic acid is used as a food preservative (E210) and medicine for fungal/bacterial infection.
  • Toluene is converted into benzoic acid through selective and controlled oxidation in the presence of a catalyst — binaphthyl-stabilised platinum nanoparticles (Pt-BNP).
  • Also, a green oxidant (70% aqueous tert-butyl hydroperoxide or TBHP) is used for converting toluene into benzoic acid.
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