May 29, 2022

Upcycling end-of-life vehicle waste plastic into flash graphene

Nature article about plastics from end-of-life vehicles can be upcycled - all together, without being sorted - into  graphene.

Responsible disposal of vehicles at the end of life is a pressing environmental concern. In particular, waste plastic forms the largest proportion of non-recycled waste material from light-duty vehicles, and often ends up in a landfill. Here we report the upcycling of depolluted, dismantled and shredded end-of-life waste plastic into flash graphene using flash Joule heating. The synthetic process requires no separation or sorting of plastics and uses no solvents or water. We demonstrate the practical value of the graphene as a re-inforcing agent in automotive polyurethane foam composite, where its introduction leads to improved tensile strength and low frequency noise absorption properties. We demonstrate process continuity by upcycling the resulting foam composite back into equal-quality flash graphene. A prospective cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment suggests that our method may afford lower cumulative energy demand and water use, and a decrease in global warming potential compared to traditional graphene synthesis methods.

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