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Researchers Tout Technology to Make Electronics Out of Old Tires

By Network World

September 30, 2015

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Discarded tires could be used to create electrodes for supercapacitors, and researchers have developed the process for using old tires at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Drexel University.

The process involves soaking crumbs of irregularly shaped tire rubber in concentrated sulfuric acid, washing the resulting material and putting it into a tubular furnace under a flowing nitrogen gas atmosphere, and gradually increasing the temperature from 400 degrees Celsius to 1,100 degrees. In addition, the material is mixed with potassium hydroxide, baked and washed with deionized water, and then oven-dried. The treatment leads to a material that can be mixed with polyaniline, an electrically conductive polymer, to create the finished product--flexible polymer carbon composite films.

"Supercapacitors with this technology in electrodes saw just a 2-percent drop after 10,000 charge/discharge cycles," the researchers note. They say the devices could be used on the electrical grid, in cars, or in other electronics applications.

"Tires will eventually need to be discarded, and our supercapacitor applications can consume several tons of this waste," says research team leader Parans Paranthaman. "Combined with the technology we've licensed to two companies to convert scrap tires into carbon powders for batteries, we estimate consuming about 50 tons per day."

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