Technology

A Kick-Butt Way to Power Electronics

Used cigarette filters could provide useful energy storage material.

By Leah ShafferApr 2, 2015 12:00 AM
cigarette butts.jpg
StepanPopov / Shutterstock

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The used cigarette butts littering your city’s sidewalks could serve as an energy storage material for anything from smartphones to wind turbines. South Korean chemical engineers successfully converted used cigarette filters into a type of porous carbon ideal for conducting electricity.

Minzae Lee and team subjected the filters to a high-temperature process called pyrolysis, transforming the organic materials inside them into a porous carbon substance. Then they applied the carbon to the surface of electrode materials used in supercapacitors, devices that store and deliver energy more quickly and more powerfully than a typical battery.

The porous carbon performed better as conductive electrode material than conventional carbon sources, often heat-treated coconut shells, coal or wood. There’s no word yet on a real-world pilot program, but we hope researchers aren’t just blowing smoke about its potential.

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