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Cigarette butts: the future of energy storage


Alongside chewing gum, used cigarette butts are the scourge of pavements everywhere. Globally over 4 billion are thrown away each year, but researchers in Korea have found a surprising application for this seemingly unusable material. They have turned used cigarette filters into a high performing material for energy storage.

“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 for meeting the energy demands of society,” says co-author Professor Jongheop Yi of Seoul National University. “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,” adds Professor Yi.

The research shows how the new material outperforms carbon, graphene and carbon nanotubes in its capacity to store large amounts of electrical energy. Potential applications include computers, handheld devices, electric vehicles and wind turbines.

“Our carbon-based material has the potential for use as an electrode material in lithium ion batteries, a catalyst-supporting material in fuel cells, and pollutant adsorbents,” says Professor Yi. “We hope our inventions will ultimately help reduce the environmental burden of cigarette butts while lowering the manufacturing cost of high quality carbon materials.”

The findings are published in the journal Nanotechnology in the article ‘Preparation of energy storage material derived from a used cigarette filter for a supercapacitor electrode‘.


Image by Joeb07 (Johannes Kazah) (Own work) CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons