Imagine a world where used-cigarette butts can store energy for your smartphones, tablets and even wind turbines, thus offering a green solution to meet the growing energy storage demands. Not too far.
A group of scientists from South Korea have converted used-cigarette filters into a high-performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electrical vehicles and wind turbines to store energy.
"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," explained professor Jongheop Yi from Seoul National University.
As a result of this burning process, the resulting carbon-based material contained a number of tiny pores, increasing its performance as a supercapacitive material.
The material can be used to coat the electrodes of supercapacitors - electrochemical components that can store extremely large amounts of electrical energy.
"A high-performing supercapacitor material should have a large surface area, which can be achieved by incorporating a large number of small pores into the material," professor Yi noted.
A combination of different pore sizes ensures that the material has high power densities, which is an essential property in a supercapacitor for the fast charging and discharging.
The material stored a higher amount of electrical energy than commercially available carbon.
It also had a higher amount of storage compared to graphene and carbon nanotubes, as reported in previous studies.
It is estimated that as many as 5.6 trillion used-cigarettes are deposited into the environment worldwide every year.
The findings appeared in the journal Nanotechnology.