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Cigarette butts can be turned into hydrogen fuel cells

By Ian Chee - on 2 Nov 2017, 1:16pm

Cigarette butts can be turned into hydrogen fuel cells

When you hear the term hydrogen fuel cell, the first image that comes to mind is the alternative to electric cars that, thanks to the unstable property of the element, has always been mistaken to be unsafe. There has also been talk about it being used as disposable battery packs for smartphones, as silly as it sounds. Storing the hydrogen fuel cell is always the tricky part in keeping the tech safe. But scientists have found an unlikely candidate: cigarette butts.

Just don't take this as an excuse to pick up or continue smoking. <br>Image source: Meebzly.

Chemists at the University of Nottingham have discovered that exposing cigarette butts to a process called hydrothermal carbonization creates a product called hydrochar. The process alone requires only water and heat, and when hydrochar is activated, it generates porous carbons that are rich in oxygen. They also have a very high surface area that allows them to, in theory, be used to store a lot of hydrogen. This material can then be burned for heat or simply reacted with air to produce electricity, with the only byproduct being water, as with any hydrogen fuel cell. With that said, burning something and getting water as a byproduct may be a very alien concept that will take some time to get your head around.

This can be a new technique to herald the coming of what it termed the ‘hydrogen economy’ that replaces petrol with hydrogen. The research is still in an early stage, and hopefully it’s not an excuse for smokers to keep up the habit, with the excuse that they’re contributing to a greener environment.

Source: Energy & Environmental Science via Engadget.