ORNL demonstrates road to supercapacitors for scrap tires

September 25, 2015, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Instead of ending up in landfills, old tires can supply a key ingredient for supercapacitors to help power the nation. Credit: ORNL

Some of the 300 million tires discarded each year in the United States alone could be used in supercapacitors for vehicles and the electric grid using a technology developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Drexel University.

By employing proprietary pretreatment and processing, a team led by Parans Paranthaman has created flexible polymer composite films as electrodes for supercapacitors. These devices are useful in applications for cars, buses and forklifts that require rapid charge and discharge cycles with high power and high energy density. Supercapacitors with this in electrodes saw just a 2 percent drop after 10,000 charge/discharge cycles.

The technology, described in a paper published in ChemSusChem by Wiley-VCH, follows an ORNL discovery of a method to use scrap tires for batteries. Together, these approaches could provide some relief to the problems associated with the 1.5 billion tires manufacturers expect to produce annually by 2035.

"Those tires will eventually need to be discarded, and our supercapacitor applications can consume several tons of this waste," Paranthaman said. "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."

While that amount represents just a fraction of the 8,000 tons that need to be recycled every day, co-author Yury Gogotsi of Drexel noted that other recycling companies could contribute to that goal.

"Each tire can produce carbon with a yield of about 50 percent with the ORNL process," Gogotsi said. "If we were to recycle all of the scrap tires, that would translate into 1.5 million tons of carbon, which is half of the annual global production of graphite."

To produce the carbon composite papers, the researchers soaked crumbs of irregularly shaped tire rubber in concentrated sulfuric acid. They then washed the rubber and put it into a tubular furnace under a flowing nitrogen gas atmosphere. They gradually increased the temperature from 400 degrees Celsius to 1,100 degrees.

After several additional steps, including mixing the material with potassium hydroxide and additional baking and washing with deionized water and oven drying, researchers have a material they could mix with polyaniline, an electrically conductive polymer, until they have a finished product.

"We anticipate that the same strategy can be applied to deposit other pseudocapacitive materials with low-cost tire-derived activated carbon to achieve even higher electrochemical performance and longer cycle life, a key challenge for electrochemically active polymers," Gogotsi said.

Explore further: Rubber meets the road with new ORNL carbon, battery technologies

More information: The paper, titled "Waste Tire Derived Carbon–Polymer Composite Paper as Pseudocapacitive Electrode with Long Cycle Life," is available at dx.doi.org/10.1002/cssc.201500866

Related Stories

Toward tires that repair themselves

September 23, 2015

A cut or torn tire usually means one thing—you have to buy a new one. But some day, that could change. For the first time, scientists have made tire-grade rubber without the processing step—vulcanization—that has been ...

Hertz to recycle all its tires

November 6, 2012

Do you have any idea what happens to the tires when you junk your car? I didn't think so. What about the 1.2 million tires on the 300,000 cars that are in the Hertz rental car fleet at any one time? I didn't think you had ...

New 'designer carbon' boosts battery performance

May 29, 2015

Stanford University scientists have created a new carbon material that significantly boosts the performance of energy-storage technologies. Their results are featured on the cover of the journal ACS Central Science.

Recommended for you

Bio-renewable process could help 'green' plastic

January 19, 2018

When John Wesley Hyatt patented the first industrial plastic in 1869, his intention was to create an alternative to the elephant tusk ivory used to make piano keys. But this early plastic also sparked a revolution in the ...

Simulations show how atoms behave inside self-healing cement

January 19, 2018

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a self-healing cement that could repair itself in as little as a few hours. Wellbore cement for geothermal applications has a life-span of only 30 ...

Looking to the sun to create hydrogen fuel

January 18, 2018

When Lawrence Livermore scientist Tadashi Ogitsu leased a hydrogen fuel-cell car in 2017, he knew that his daily commute would change forever. There are no greenhouse gases that come out of the tailpipe, just a bit of water ...

A new polymer raises the bar for lithium-sulfur batteries

January 18, 2018

Lithium-sulfur batteries are promising candidates for replacing common lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles since they are cheaper, weigh less, and can store nearly double the energy for the same mass. However, lithium-sulfur ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.