Researchers in South Korea are taking the discarded remnants of a bad habit and creating effective, cheap energy storage. Tara Cleary reports.
Most of us would be hard-pressed to think of a constructive use for cigarette butts. But not Kim Gil-pyo, a researcher at South Korea's Seoul National University, who says that seeing so many discarded cigarette butts inspired him to explore ways to recycle them into useful materials. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate and Kim says that when subject to an extreme heating process, it can be transformed into carbon-based material. And carbon is the ideal substabce for super capacitors that store electrical energy - it's cheap, it has high electrical conductivity and long-term stability. SOUNDBITE: Kim Gil-pyo, researcher at Seoul National University, saying (Korean): "By creating the world's first supercapacitor material with cigarette butts - which doesn't have chemical reactions like regular batteries - we were able to make a fast charging and discharging energy storage material (battery) that can be used semi-permanently." Super capacitors are often found in electronics like laptop computers and cell phones or in industrial energy converters like wind turbines. And Kim says his super capacitors will also be very economical … so once they hit the market, they could kick some serious butt.