Plastic bags could soon be converted into waste-based batteries.
New research published in the American Chemical Society journal claims a newly discovered process means environmentally-troubling shopping bags can be converted into carbon chips to be used as anodes for lithium-ion batteries.
They say previous methods to turn throwaway polyethylene into pure carbon have been inefficient or too expensive.
However, by covering polyethylene plastic bags in sulfuric acid and heating them to just below polyethylene’s melting temperature, researchers caused sulfonic acid groups to be added, meaning plastic could be heated to a much higher temperature without vaporising into hazardous gases.
They then removed the sulfonated polyethylene and heated it in a furnace to produce pure carbon, before grinding this into a black powder and using it to make anodes for lithium-ion batteries.
They claim the batteries performed comparably to commercial batteries and said they will continue to research the technology.
Total has bought a French plastics recycling company Synova for an undisclosed sum.