In the composting domain, the “from trash to treasure” concept is valid because food waste is transformed into fertilizer for gardens. Imagine the usage of compost more than just as a fertilizer. At present, a team of researchers has outlined that the gases formed at the time of composting can be collected and combined with rubber to produce optimized sensors and electronic sealants. They have reported the outcomes of the research in ACS Omega.
Natural rubber can be procured from the Hevea brasiliensis tree by tapping it patiently. The high elasticity, flexibility, and durability of the collected polymer enable it to be used to produce day-to-day items such as rain boots, tires, and so on. However, in general, natural rubber is not pure when it hits the road. Fillers (e.g., carbon black) are added to rubber to improve its characteristics. As huge quantities of carbon black are required for this, the color and other characteristics of rubber are negatively affected. Therefore, researchers have been searching for a replacement to entirely or partially substitute it. One such material under investigation is graphitic nanocarbons. Alain Pénicaud and his team endeavored to synthesize nanocarbon fillers that are highly cost-effective and consistently sized when compared to other materials being developed.
The researchers used graphitic nanocarbons extracted from the methane synthesized during decomposing of food, or compost, which is low-cost and sustainable. Moreover, the nanocarbons were tiny and consistent in size, indicating that they will be perfect for fillers. A composite was formed by integrating the materials with natural rubber. During investigations, the electrical resistivity of the composite was validated. The team said this indicates that the material can be used as a sealant for electrical devices. The composite attained conductivity only when it was combined with ten weight percent of the nanocarbons, a prospective application for creating sensors. The team finalized that the nanocarbons were a feasible substitute to be used as fillers in the place of carbon black.
Funding from the European Project PLASCARB, INCT Nanocarbon, CNPQ, and CAPES-COFECUB is acknowledged by the authors.
From compost to composites: An eco-friendly way to improve rubber - Headline Science