_NATURE ENVIRONMENT Energy

_When Rubber Hits the Road

Old tires could find new life as energy-storing materials thanks to a process developed in part at Drexel.

_Yury Gogotsi

Gogotsi is trustee chair professor of materials science and engineering and director of the A.J. Drexel Nanotechnology Institute.

Researchers have figured out a way to turn the rubber from old tires into material that can store energy — a discovery that could aid in recycling some of the nearly 300 million tires that are discarded annually in the United States.

The research, which was co-developed by scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Drexel University’s College of Engineering, appeared in the journal ChemSusChem. It suggests that about 50 percent of the mass of a tire could be converted to carbon powder that can be used in batteries and supercapacitors.

300 Million

Number of tires discarded annually
in the United States

“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,” says Drexel researcher Yury Gogotsi.

1.5 Million Tons

Amount of carbon powder that could be produced if all discarded tires were
recycled for this purpose.

The process entails pretreating the tires and heating them in a special tube-shaped furnace, and then depositing the resultant carbon on a thin film.

In addition to Gogotsi, co-authors of the paper include Muhammad Boota, a doctoral candidate in Gogotsi’s lab; and Oak Ridge’s Amit Naskar, Yunchao Li, Kokooubi Akato and Parans Paranthaman.