Mother Earth will be smiling if she has internet access and can read this post. Those plastic bags can now be rid of and recycled.
All thanks to the research conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, all unwanted plastic bags can be recycled into carbon fiber. The properties of these carbon fibers can also be fine tuned to suit different applications.
The Oak Ridge led by Materials Scientist Amit Naskar started with polyethylene base fibers. These could come waste plastic such as shopping bags and carpet backing scraps.
The component properties can be changed using “a multi-component melt extrusion-based fiber spinning method,” (What was that now?). The surface contours of the fibers can be customized and their diameters can be manipulated with submicron precision. The porosities can also be controlled.
Bundles of the plastic fibers are dipped in an acid bath. A process known as sulfonation bonds the plastic fiber into one black fiber.
After binding, the fibers are exposed to very high temperatures. The heat causes the chemical components to turn into a gas state.
After all the gas has leaked out, what’s left is a carbon fiber.
So where is this carbon fiber used? Scientists envisioned it as a great tool for filtration or energy harvesting. It will also find its place in making tough yet affordable car parts.