Process turns waste plastic bags into high tech nanomaterial

Scientists in Australia have found away to turn waste plastic bags into carbon nanotube membranes, ultra strong and highly sophisticated materials with a variety of potential applications, including filtration, sensing and energy storage.

"Non-biodegradable plastic bags are a serious menace to natural ecosystems and present a problem in terms of disposal," says Professor Dusan Losic, from the University of Adelaide. "Transforming these waste materials through nanotechnological recycling provides a potential solution for minimising environmental pollution at the same time as producing high-added value products." To begin, the Adelaide team 'grew' carbon nanotubes onto nanoporous alumina membranes. They then used pieces of plastic bags that had been vapourised in a furnace to produce carbon layers. These then lined the pores in the membrane to make the tiny cylinders (carbon nanotubes). "What we've developed is a new and simplified method of fabrication with controllable dimensions and shapes, and using a waste product as the carbon source," concluded Professor Losic.