Electric cars could be made with plastic from clunkers, according to new research

Electric cars could be made with plastic from clunkers, according to new research

Electric cars could be made with plastic from old clunkers, according to new research.

Bumpers, carpets, mats, seats, seals and door frames have been converted to graphene, the lightest material in the world.

Invented by British scientists nearly twenty years ago, it will revolutionize the automation industry.

The metal will increase the strength of vehicles while reducing weight, improving fuel economy and creating rust-free paint.

It will make self-driving cars safer with sensors just one atom thick, enabling the detection of obstacles even in difficult weather conditions.

The US team teamed up with Ford using a state-of-the-art technique called flash Joule heating.

“Ford sent us 10 pounds of mixed plastic waste from a car shredder,” said project leader Professor James Tour of Rice University, Houston. “It was muddy and wet. We flashed it, we sent the graphene back to Ford, they put it in new foam composites and it did everything it was supposed to do.

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“Then they sent us the new composites and we flashed them and turned them back into graphene. It’s a great example of circular recycling.”

The recycling breakthrough could also reduce landfill waste from more than 1.4 billion passenger cars used worldwide.

Ford uses up to 60 lbs of polyurethane foam in its vehicles, about 2 lbs of which has been reinforced with graphene since 2018.

“When we got the graphene back from Rice, we incorporated it into our foam in very small amounts and saw a significant improvement,” said study co-author Dr. Alper Kiziltas, a sustainability expert at the motorcycle giant. “It exceeded our expectations by providing both excellent mechanical and physical properties for our applications.”

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The company first introduced it in under-the-hood components. In 2020, it added a graphene-reinforced hood. It is also expected to boost hard plastics.

A new way

“Our joint discovery with Rice will become even more relevant as Ford moves towards electric vehicles,” said co-author Dr. Deborah Mielewski, also of Ford.

“If you cut out the sound of the combustion engine, you hear everything else inside and outside the vehicle much more clearly.”

“It is much more important to be able to muffle sound. “So we urgently need foam materials that absorb better sound and vibration.

“This is exactly where graphene can provide amazing noise reduction at extremely low levels.”

Graphene will also replace lithium-ion batteries, currently a very heavy component of electric vehicles.

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The study in Communications Engineering reused the graphene to make improved polyurethane for new vehicles.

Tests showed that the tensile strength of the infused foam and the low-frequency sound absorption increased by 34 and 25 percent, respectively, with less than 0.1 percent by weight.

And when that new car is old, the foam can be flashed back into graphene. Plastic in vehicles has increased by an estimated 75 percent in just six years.

“In Europe, cars are returned to the manufacturer, who is only allowed to deposit 5% of a vehicle. That means they have to recycle 95%, and that’s just overwhelming,” said Prof. said tour.

The US destroys up to 15 million vehicles a year, with more than 27 million worldwide. Much is eventually burned.

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“We have hundreds of different combinations of plastic resin, filler and reinforcements on vehicles that make it impossible to separate the materials,” said Dr. Mielewski. “Each application has a specific load/mixture that meets the requirements most economically.”

Plastics cannot be recycled. Traditional recycling methods are expensive because they require the separation of different species.

“These are not recyclable materials like plastic bottles, so they can’t melt and reshape them,” explains Prof Tour. “So when Ford researchers saw our article about flash Joule heating plastic to graphene, they reached out.”

Flash Joule heating was developed by his lab two years ago. It packs mixed crushed plastic and a coke additive, for conductivity, between electrodes in a tube.

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The chemical cocktail is blasted with high voltage. The sudden, intense heat reaches nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and vaporizes other elements, leaving graphene behind.

It offers significant environmental benefits. The process requires no solvents and consumes a minimum of energy.

In experiments, the team grinds shredder ‘fluff’ from discarded F-150 pickup trucks without washing or pre-sorting the components.

Powder heated in low current for between 10 and 16 seconds produced a highly carbonized plastic that makes up about 30 percent of the original bulk.

The balance was degassed or recovered as hydrocarbon rich waxes and oils. Lead author Kevin Wyss, a graduate student, believes this can also be recycled.

The carbonized plastic was then subjected to high-current flashes, converting 85 percent of it to graphene while carrying off hydrogen, oxygen, chlorine, silicon and trace metal contaminants.

Analyzes showed that it produced graphene with significant reductions in energy, greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption compared to other methods, even including the energy required to reduce the plastic shredder fluff to powder.

Graphene was discovered in 2004 by Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov at the University of Manchester. It later earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics.

It is harder than diamond, but stretches like rubber. It is virtually invisible, conducts electricity and heat better than copper wire and weighs next to nothing.

In the coming decades, the amazing material is expected to change almost every aspect of our lives.

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