Discarded cigarette butts are a major waste disposal and environmental pollution hazard. But chemists at the University of Nottingham have discovered that cigarette butt-derived carbons have ultra-high surface area and unprecedented hydrogen storage capacity.
The research was carried out by Robert Mokaya, Professor of Materials Chemistry, and Troy Scott Blankenship, an undergraduate project student, in the School of Chemistry and has been published in the academic journal Energy and Environmental Science.
Professor Mokaya said: “We have utilised cigarette butt waste as starting material to prepare energy materials that offer unprecedented hydrogen storage properties. This may not only address an intractable environmental pollution problem – cigarette butts – but also offers new insights into converting a major waste product into very attractive hydrogen storage materials.”
Hydrogen is attractive as a fuel because whether it is burned to produce heat or reacted with air in a fuel cell to produce electricity, the only by-product is water.
Solving a major waste disposal problem
Every year nearly six trillion cigarettes are smoked worldwide. This generates more than 800,000 metric tons of cigarette butts. Apart from causing unsightly litter, cigarette butts contain contaminants such as toxic heavy metals which can leach into waterways potentially causing harm to both humans and wildlife.
Cigarette butts – used cigarette filters – are a lingering pollution hazard because they mainly contain cellulose acetate which is non-biodegradable. However, the cellulose acetate makes them an attractive starting material for valorisation to porous carbons. Such valorization is in line with the current trend to move away from coal-based carbonaceous precursors to biomass-derived or waste-based starting materials for porous carbon synthesis.
Turning waste into fuels or energy sources
Hydrothermal carbonisation, a process that requires only water and heat, of discarded cigarette butts yields a carbon product called hydrochar. The research team found that when the hydrochar is activated it generates oxygen rich porous carbons that have very high surface area.
Professor Mokaya said: “We show that activated carbons derived from cigarette butts or filters, via sequential benign hydrothermal carbonisation and activation, are super porous with ultra-high surface area and exhibit unprecedentedly high hydrogen storage capacity. This work not only raises the interesting question of whether valorisation can solve the intractable cigarette butt problem but also offers porous carbons that attain new levels of hydrogen storage for porous materials in general.”
As part of the drive towards the ‘Hydrogen Economy’, in which hydrogen is used as a low-carbon energy source, this technique could be developed to replace, for example, gasoline as a transport fuel or natural gas as a heating fuel.
The Latest on: Hydrogen storage
- ITM Power and Iwatani collaborate on hydrogen energy systemson November 19, 2019 at 9:42 am
Energy storage and clean fuel company ITM Power has joined forces with the US subsidiary of Iwatani Corporation for hydrogen energy systems. They have signed a collaboration agreement for the ...
- ENA calls for mandatory hydrogen boilers as CBI outlines new sustainability visionon November 19, 2019 at 3:02 am
Replacing existing gas boilers with hydrogen-ready devices should be mandatory when they reach the end of their ... It also says that “at least one” net-zero industrial cluster should be live by 2025 ...
- Iwatani and ITM Power form hydrogen partnership in the USon November 19, 2019 at 1:47 am
Iwatani Corporation of America and ITM Power have signed a collaboration agreement for the deployment of a multi megawatt electrolyser based on hydrogen energy systems in North America. Through the ...
- Engie and Air Liquide join forces to develop green hydrogenon November 18, 2019 at 12:00 am
The utility will provide expertise in the production, storage and distribution of renewable energy, including hydrogen, and Air Liquide will contribute electrolysis and low-carbon technology knowhow.
- Electric or hydrogen — which will win the clean car race?on November 16, 2019 at 1:00 pm
But CSIRO is working with Nissan Australia and Delta Electronics to develop a smart charger which can replenish up to four electric vehicles from home battery storage connected to rooftop solar. For ...
- French gas networks could mix in green hydrogen in future, say operatorson November 15, 2019 at 7:06 am
“The new lending rules will support the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), power-to-gas, hydrogen and biogas. Investments in gas infrastructure will deliver these technologies that all ...
- The Uncertain Future Of Hydrogen As Transportation Energyon November 14, 2019 at 9:43 am
Hydrogen is often touted as an important transportation “fuel” in the future, though it has never gotten significant traction. One reason is confusion over what it is – it’s not an energy source, ...
- Air Liquide and Engie Join Forces on Renewable Hydrogen in Franceon November 14, 2019 at 8:30 am
The location has land availability for the project along with 1,450 hours of sunshine annually and a salt cavity storage site that can accommodate large-scale centralized renewable hydrogen production ...
- Air Liquide, DLVA and ENGIE Are Entering Into an Ambitious Partnership to Produce Green Hydrogen on an Industrial Scaleon November 13, 2019 at 1:00 am
Air Liquide’s commitment to hydrogen energy In the past 50 years, Air Liquide has developed unique expertise enabling it to master the entire hydrogen supply chain, from production and storage to ...
- Analysis: do hydrogen-powered cars have a future?on November 12, 2019 at 11:07 pm
In South Korea, resident groups are opposing new hydrogen filling stations in their neighbourhoods following an explosion in May at a hydrogen storage tank in the city of Gangneung, killing two. Even ...
via Google News and Bing News