Used-cigarette butts are all set to become the world’s next generation energy storage device

LONDON (TIP): A group of scientists from South Korea have converted used-cigarette butts into a high-performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electrical vehicles and wind turbines to store energy. The researchers have demonstrated the material’s superior performance compared to commercially available carbon, graphene and carbon nanotubes.

It is hoped the material can be used to coat the electrodes of super capacitors – electrochemical components that can store extremely large amounts of electrical energy – whilst also offering a solution to the growing environmental problem caused by used-cigarette filters. It is estimated that as many as 5.6 trillion used-cigarettes or 766,571 metric tons are deposited into the environment worldwide every year.

In their study, the researchers demonstrated that the cellulose acetate fibres that cigarette filters are mostly composed of could be transformed into a carbon-based material using a simple, one-step burning technique called pyrolysis.

As a result of this burning process, the resulting carbonbased material contained a number of tiny pores, increasing its performance as a super capacitive material. “A high-performing super capacitor material should have a large surface area, which can be achieved by incorporating a large number of small pores into the material,” said Professor Jongheop Yi from Seoul National University.

“Our study has shown that used-cigarette filters can be transformed into a high-performing carbon-based material using a simple one step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution to meeting the energy demands of society. Numerous countries are developing strict regulations to avoid the trillions of toxic and non-biodegradable used-cigarette filters that are disposed of into the environment each year – our method is just one way of achieving this.”

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Volume 4 Issue 41 | Dallas | Oct 21

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