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From smokes to supercapacitors: Researchers transform used cigarette filters

Scientists in South Korea say they have found a way of converting used cigarette butts into a material capable of storing energy that could help power everything from mobile phones to electric cars.

South Korean researchers say carbon can be low-cost option

Cigarette filters, shown in this file photo, contain cellulose acetate fibres that are being used by researchers in Seoul. (Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters)

Scientists in South Korea say they have found a way of converting used cigarette butts into a material capable of storing energy that could help power everything from mobile phones to electric cars.

In a study published on Tuesday in the journal Nanotechnology, researchers from Seoul National University outlined how they transformed the used filters, which are composed mainly of cellulose acetate fibres and are considered toxic and a risk to the environment when discarded.

"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 to meeting the energy demands of society," said professor and study co-author Jongheop Yi.

The end result is a so-called supercapacitor, which the scientists said stores more power, charges quicker and lasts longer than available storage alternatives.

"Carbon is one of the promising materials considered for use in supercapacitors due to its low cost, high porosity, electronic conductivity and stability," the study added.

According to anti-smoking campaigners Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded item worldwide, contributing more than 765,000 tonnes of waste annually.

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