Cigarette smokers may hold the key to increasing energy storage for green energy and helping to solve global warming, according to a new study out of South Korea.
Not only that, cigarette butts could also be used to eradicate a deadly virus spread by mosquitoes.
As it turns out, used cigarette butts can be converted into material used for energy storage. South Korean scientists say this material could one day be used to coat the electrodes of supercapacitors which would enhance energy storage for things like electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines.
“Our study has shown that used cigarette filters can be transformed into a high performing carbon-based material using a simple one step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution for meeting the energy demands of society,” Professor Jongheop Yi of Seoul National University said in a statement.
Material made from cigarette butts even outperforms carbon, the most common material used to coat supercapacitors, according to Yi and his colleagues. For years, scientists have been looking for ways to find cost-effective ways to store energy — a crucial technology needed to make green energy competitive with fossil fuels.
The problem with solar panels and wind turbines is that they are intermittent energy sources — they only create electricity when the wind blows or the sun shines. Green activists say that energy storage would make wind and solar more competitive and help reduce carbon dioxide emissions they say are causing catastrophic global warming.
“Numerous countries are developing strict regulations to avoid the trillions of toxic and non-biodegradable used cigarette filters that are disposed of into the environment each year. Our method is just one way of achieving this,” said Yi, who is a co-author of the study.
Yi’s study found that cellulose fibers found in cigarette butts can easily be converted into a carbon-based coating material. The cigarette-based coating contained tiny pores that increased its performance as a superconductor.
Another research team from Japan and Malaysia argues that cigarette butt materials can be used to control dengue fever — a viral disease spread by mosquitos. According to Science Daily, the butts are “impregnated with thousands of chemical compounds, many of which are highly toxic and none of which has [a] history of resistance in mosquitoes.”
The World Health Organization reports that some 390 million around the globe contract dengue fever every year. The WHO estimates that about half the world’s population is at risk of contracting dengue, so finding a way to stem the disease is a big undertaking.
Researchers found that cigarette butts were “detrimental effects on the [fertility] and longevity of [mosquito] offspring.”
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