(555b) Waste Plastics to Energy Storing Carbon Anodes through Green Processing

Pol, V. G., Purdue University
For the methodical recycling of abiquitous plastic waste, greener manufacturing or chemical processes are required for the environmental and societal benefits1. Sustainable engineering is the process of designing a system(s) in which they use energy and resources sustainably; ultimately generating an ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Environmentally harmful plastic waste is a major concern currently throughout the world.2 Though plastics improve our lives in countless ways, they also pose a serious threat to our environment as plastic waste. However, the major challenges faced in recycling are (i) plastic waste collection, segregation, cleaning with associated cost, (ii) chemically different polymers extrusion yields low quality product and (iii) restrictions and imparted duties by other countries on import of recyclable plastic waste.

During last decade, Pol’s research team innovated and researched on an environmentally beneficial thermochemical upcycling3 processes with possible important applications for the obtained products contributing to the sustainable engineering field. Developed one-step, low-energy, solvent-less process is called “upcycling” because it produces products4 having greater value than the original plastics. Developed transformative processing method could permanently reduce pollution at its source, providing greener reaction conditions. Established greener processing system for the conversion of unsorted plastic waste into structurally tunable carbon microspheres5 and carbon nanotubes6 that have important tribological7 and battery applications5,8 will be discussed. Moreover, recent invention lead by PI transforms polymer and starch waste, including used packing peanuts, into a multi-functional carbon sheets powder via an environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and scalable production9 route. The manufactured carbon sheet particles demonstrate a wide-range of potential applications including: electrodes for energy storage, toners for printers, activated carbons for storing CO2, conductive additives for tires, lubrication additives, and many more. This industrially viable, facile green process utilizes trashed packing peanut feedstock that is heat treated to 600 °C under an inert atmosphere in a single-step attaining reproducible product as promising lithium9 and sodium10 ion battery anode. In summary, this talk is centered on the originated green processing, which applies economic and technologically feasible parameters to engineer a product decreasing pollution at its source, minimize hazardous exposures, and reduce energy consumption protecting human health.


  1. United Nations Environment Assembly. Towards a pollution-free planet. Report No. UNEP/EA.3/L.19 (United Nations, 2017).
  2. United Nations. Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Report No. A/RES/70/1 (United Nations, 2015).
  3. V. G. Pol, Upcycling: Converting Waste Plastics into Paramagnetic, Conducting, Solid, Pure Carbon Microspheres. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2010, 44, 4753–4759.
  4. V. G. Pol, J. Wen, K–C. Lau, S. Callear, D.T. Bowron, C–K. Lin, S. A. Deshmukh, S. Sankaranarayanan, L. A. Curtiss, W. I. F. David, D. J. Miller, M. M. Thackeray, Probing the Evolution and Morphology of Hard Carbon Spheres. Carbon, 2014, 68, 104-111
  5. V. G. Pol, M. M. Thackeray, Spherical Carbon Particles and Carbon Nanotubes Prepared by Autogenic Reactions: Evaluation as Anodes in Lithium Electrochemical Cells, Energy & Environ. Sci., 2011, 4, 1904–1912
  6. V. G. Pol, P. Thiyagarajan, "Remediating Plastic Waste into Carbon Nanotubes," J. Environ. Monitoring, 2010, 12, 455–459.
  7. K. K. Mistry, V. G. Pol, M. M. Thackeray, J. Wen, D. J. Miller, A. Erdemir, Synthesis and Tribology of Micro-Carbon Sphere Additives for Enhanced Lubrication, Tribology Transactions, 2015, 58, 3.
  8. Pol, V. G.; Lee, E.; Zhou, D.; Dogan, F.; Calderon-Moreno, J. M.; Jonhson C. S. Spherical Carbon as a New High-Rate Anode for Sodium-ion Batteries. Electrochim. Acta, 2014, 127, 61-67.
  9. Etacheri, C. N. Hong, V. G. Pol, Upcycling of Packing-Peanuts into Carbon Microsheet Anodes for Lithium-Ion Batteries. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2015, 49, 11191.
  10. J. Tang, J. Barker, V. G. Pol, “Sodium-ion Battery Anode Comprising Carbon Sheets: Stable Cycling in Half and Full-Pouch Cell Configuration”, Energy Technology, 2018, 6, 213-220.