Recycling Waste Car Parts into Graphene – AZoM

June 13, 2022 by No Comments

AZoM spoke with Professor James Tour and Ph.D. candidate Kevin Wyss from Rice University about their research that has looked at upcycling disused car parts into high-quality turbostratic graphene.

Please can you introduce yourself, your background, and how you began researching graphene materials?

James Tour (JT): Professor of Chemistry, Rice University

Kevin Wyss (KW): Hi, my name is Kevin Wyss, and I am an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at Rice University. I began my research in materials chemistry when I came to Rice in 2019. Previously, during my undergraduate at Auburn University, I worked on organic, coordination, and supramolecular chemistry. When I came to Rice University, Prof Tour’s lab had just started working on flash Joule heating and flash graphene – I knew I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work in such a new and exciting field, and I have learned so much.

How much waste is produced from old or disused vehicles, and why is this such a problem?

KW: As cars strive to be more fuel-efficient, the amount of plastic per vehicle has increased to an average of 350 kg. When the car gets old and is eventually shredded, the metal is removed, and the plastic is typically burned or landfilled causing environmental problems. This means millions of kgs of plastic each year because cheap and efficient recycling methods aren’t common yet. The European Union implemented the end-of-life vehicle Directive to ensure that 95% of the raw materials in end-of-life vehicles are recovered by 2015. But, due to the cost of plastic recycling, almost all nations still fail to meet these guidelines today.

Your research has created a process that enables the upcycling of plastic parts from disused cars into graphene. Could you please describe the method through which this is possible?

JT: For our process, we started with end-of-vehicle waste plastic that came from a commercial automotive plastic stripper. It was dirty, with all kinds of polymers mixed together. We ground it into small pieces and then upcycled it using flash Joule heating, where we pass a current through the plastic, with a little bit of coal added to be conductive. This current heats the sample, first carbonizing the plastic, then converting it to high-quality turbostratic graphene, all in the span of less than 30 seconds.

All the contaminants in the waste plastic sublime out during this rapid heating process, and we are left with graphene powder that can be used without any further purification! So, we sent 20 grams of our graphene to Ford Motor Company, for their testing in new, next-generation graphene nanocomposites they use in cars. Ford put our graphene into new composites and it did all that was expected—toughening and sound-deadening. Then they sent us those graphene-foam composites, and we again flashed them all into new graphene. You see the prospects of endless upcycling?<!…….

Source: https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=21761

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