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Cars can get a “glamorous” upgrade | rice news | News and Media Relations

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The part of an old car that has been converted to Graphene can return as a better part for a new car.

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Rice University chemists are working with researchers at Ford Motor Company to convert plastic parts from “expired” compounds into graphene Through the university heating process flash joules.

Kevin Wyss, a Rice University graduate student, loads untreated parts from a truck
Kevin Wyss, a graduate student at Rice University, loads untreated parts from an “expired” truck that are ground to a powder and turned into graphene via a lab-joule heating process. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

The average SUV contains up to 350 kilograms (771 lb) of plastic that could lie in landfill for centuries but for the recycling process reported in the first issue of the new journal Nature, Communications Engineering.

Objective of the project led by chemist Rice James Tour Graduate student and lead author Kevin Wes Reusing graphene to make reinforced polyurethane foam for new cars. Tests have shown that the graphene-impregnated foam has a 34% increase in tensile strength and a 25% increase in low frequency noise absorption. This is with only 0.1% by weight or less of graphene.

And when this new car gets old, the foam in the graphene can be flashed again.

“Ford sent us 10 pounds of mixed plastic waste from an automobile shredding facility,” Tour said. “It was muddy and wet. We flashed it, sent graphene back to Ford, put it in new foam compounds and did everything it was supposed to do.

“Then they sent us the new compounds and we flashed them and put them back in graphene,” he said. “It’s a great example of circular recycling.”

Researchers cited study It is estimated that the amount of plastic used in vehicles has increased by 75% in the past six years just as a way to reduce weight and increase fuel economy.

Tour said separating mixed end-of-life plastics for recycling has been a long-standing problem for the auto industry, and is becoming even more important due to potential environmental regulations around end-of-life vehicles. “In Europe, the cars belong to the manufacturer, who is allowed to bury only 5% of the car,” he said. “That means they have to recycle 95%, which is stressful for them.”

According to the co-author, a lot of mixed plastic is burned Deborah Miloskia technical fellow for sustainability at Ford, who noted that the United States shreds 10 to 15 million cars each year, with more than 27 million shredded globally.

“We have hundreds of different combinations of plastic resin, fillers, and reinforcements on composites that make it impossible to separate the materials,” she said. “Each application has a specific load/mixture that meets the requirements economically.”

“These are not recyclables like plastic bottles, so they can’t melt and reshape them,” Tour said. “So, when the Ford researchers discovered our paper on a Joule flash heated plastic in graphene, they reached out.”

Heating Flash Joule for making graphene, introduced by Tour Lab in 2020, packages mixed crushed plastic and a Coke An additive (for conduction) between the electrodes in the tube and blasting them with a high voltage. The sudden, intense heat—up to nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit—evaporates the other elements and leaves behind easy to melt, Turbostatic graphene.

Rapid heating provides significant environmental benefits, as the process requires no solvents and uses minimal energy to produce graphene.

To test whether mixed end-of-life plastics can be turned, Rice’s lab grinds shredder “fluff” made of plastic fenders, gaskets, carpets, mats, seats and door casings from expired F-150 pickup trucks into a fine powder without washing or pre-sorting the components.

The tester flashed the powder in two steps, first under a low current and then a high current in a Wyss heater intended for the experiment.

The powder heated 10 to 16 seconds in a low stream yields a high-carbon plastic that is about 30 percent of the initial volume. The remaining 70% was disposed of or recovered as hydrocarbon-rich waxes and oils which Wyss suggested could also be recycled.

Kevin Wyss, a graduate student at Rice University, holds a vial of graphene and samples of Ford Motor Company's graphene-reinforced polyurethane.  Ford teamed up with Rice Lab to recycle plastic from expired compounds into graphene through flash joule heating, and then used that graphene into new foam.  (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
Rice graduate student Kevin Weiss holds a bottle of graphene and samples of graphene-reinforced polyurethane from Ford Motor Company. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

The carbonated plastic was then subjected to a high-current flash, which transformed 85% of it into graphene while releasing hydrogen gas, oxygen, chlorine, silicon and trace metal impurities.

The opportunity to incorporate life cycle analysis (LCA) into Rice’s research project was also a magnet for Wyss. “I’m driven by sustainability, and that’s where I want to focus in my career,” he said.

The life-cycle assessment included comparing graphene from flashing car parts to those produced by other methods, and evaluating recycling efficiency. Their findings showed that heating with a Joule flash produces graphene with significantly reduced energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use when compared to other methods, even including the energy needed to reduce the fluff of chopping plastic into a powder.

Ford has been using up to 60 pounds of polyurethane foam in its cars, with about 2 pounds of that graphene being reinforced since 2018, according to the co-author. Albert Kiseltas, a technical expert at Ford Research focusing on sustainability and emerging materials. “When we got the graphene back from Rice, we put it in the foam in very small amounts and we saw a huge improvement,” he said. “It has exceeded our expectations in providing excellent mechanical and physical properties for our applications.”

Clearly, graphene has a future at Ford. The company first introduced it in a variety of other under-the-hood components and in 2020 added a graphene-reinforced hood. Kiseltas said the company expects to use it to strengthen hard plastics as well.

“Our collaborative discovery with Rice will become even more important as Ford transitions to electric vehicles,” Milewski said. “When you remove the noise from the internal combustion engine, you can hear everything else inside and outside the car more clearly.”

“It is very important to be able to dampen the noise,” she said. “So we urgently need foam materials with better noise and vibration absorption. This is exactly where graphene can provide amazing noise attenuation using very low levels.”

The other co-authors of the paper are Robert Decline and Rachel Couvreur of Ford. The tour is the TT and WF Chao Chair in Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science and Nanoengineering.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-19-1-0296), the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (DE-FE0031794) and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship supported the research.

Peer reviewed research

Recycling of end-of-life vehicle plastics into flash graphene: https://www.nature.com/articles/s44172-022-00006-7

Pictures to download

Kevin Wyss, a graduate student at Rice University, holds a vial of graphene and samples of Ford Motor Company's graphene-reinforced polyurethane.  Ford teamed up with Rice Lab to recycle plastic from expired compounds into graphene through flash joule heating, and then used that graphene into new foam.  (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/04/0418_CAR-1-WEB.jpg

Kevin Wyss, a graduate student at Rice University, holds a vial of graphene and samples of Ford Motor Company’s graphene-reinforced polyurethane. Ford teamed up with Rice Lab to recycle plastic from expired compounds into graphene through flash joule heating, and then used that graphene into new foam. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Kevin Weiss, a Rice University graduate student, picks up muddy bits from a truck

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/04/0418_CAR-2-WEB.jpg

Rice University graduate student Kevin Weiss loads muddy bits from a dismantled “expired” truck into a Ford strip yard. The Rice lab worked with Ford to recycle plastic parts into graphene that can be used to reinforce polyurethane for new vehicles. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Kevin Wyss, a Rice University graduate student, loads untreated parts from a truck

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/04/0418_CAR-3-WEB.jpg

Kevin Wyss, a graduate student at Rice University, loads untreated parts from an “expired” truck that are ground to a powder and turned into graphene via a lab-joule heating process. The graphene can then be recycled repeatedly to provide improved strength and sound retardant polyurethane for new compounds. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Related links

Brilliant plastic ash complements recycling: https://news.rice.edu/news/2021/flashing-plastic-ash-completes-recycling

Machine learning improves flash graphene: https://news.rice.edu/news/2022/machine-learning-fine-tunes-flash-graphene

Tourist group: https://www.jmtour.com

chemistry department: https://chemistry.rice.edu

Wyss School of Natural Sciences: https://naturalsciences.rice.edu

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about rice

Located on a 300-acre woodland campus in Houston, Rice University has been consistently ranked among the top 20 universities in the country by US News & World Report. Rice has highly respected faculties of architecture, business, continuing studies, engineering, humanities, music, natural sciences, and social sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 4,052 undergraduates and 3,484 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate-faculty ratio is just under 6 to 1. The residential college system builds tight-knit communities and lifelong friendships, and that’s just one reason why Rice ranks first in so many of her interactions. Ethnicity/Segregation ranked #1 for quality of life by Princeton Magazine. Rice is also ranked as the best value amongst private universities by Kiplinger Personal Finance.

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