Black plastics are often used in packaging for ready meals and fruit and vegetables in supermarkets. However, they can’t be easily recycled. But now, a research team from Swansea University believes it has a solution. Their work, published in The Journal for Carbon Research, focuses on chemical recycling which uses the constituent elements of the plastic to make new materials.
Researchers were able to remove the carbon and construct nanotube molecules from the bottom up using carbon atoms and then used the nonotubes to transmit electricity to a light bulb in a small demonstrator model. While all plastics are made of carbon, hydrogen and sometimes oxygen, the amounts and arrangements of these three elements make each plastic unique. As plastics are very pure and highly refined chemicals, they can be broken down into these elements and then bonded in different arrangements to make high value materials such as carbon nanotubes.
Dr Alvin Orbaek White, a Sêr Cymru II Fellow at the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University said: “Nanotubes can be used to make a huge range of things, such as conductive films for touchscreen displays, flexible electronics fabrics that create energy, antennas for 5G networks while NASA has used them to prevent electric shocks on the Juno spacecraft.”
Now the research team plan to make high purity carbon electrical cables using waste plastic materials and to improve the nanotube material’s electrical performance and increase the output, so they are ready for large-scale deployment in the next three years.
Dr Orbaek White said: “The research is significant as carbon nanotubes can be used to solve the problem of electricity cables overheating and failing, which is responsible for about 8% of electricity is lost in transmission and distribution globally.
“This may not seem like much, but it is low because electricity cables are short, which means that power stations have to be close to the location where electricity is used, otherwise the energy is lost in transmission.
“Many long range cables, which are made of metals, can’t operate at full capacity because they would overheat and melt. This presents a real problem for a renewable energy future using wind or solar, because the best sites are far from where people live.”
Would you like to be part of the groundbreaking research at Swansea University? Are you applying from Canada? Contact Barclay Educational for information and application assistance. Barclay is a recognized Canadian agent of Swansea and several other overseas universities in the UK, France and Germany. As such there is no cost to students for our help. The Universities pay our fee. Email Jackie at JSB@barclayedu.com