Scientists find new way to convert waste charcoal into carbon fiber

Photo credit: University of Kentucky.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the leftovers when coal is mined?

In Kentucky, a state known for its coal production, researchers have found an amazing way to use this waste coal.

Instead of just piling it up, they turn it into valuable materials like carbon fiber and graphite.

This is a big deal for many reasons, including the environment, jobs and the economy.

So what exactly is this new discovery? Scientists at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) have developed a special method.

They take the coal, which is usually thrown away because it is no longer fit for sale. Then they turn it into something super useful: carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber is a strong but lightweight material that can be used in many things like cars, airplanes, and even renewable energy technologies like wind turbines. Graphite, another product they can make, is also commonly used in batteries and electronics.

How do you do that? First, the researchers turn the waste coal into a filtered liquid.

From there, they turn that liquid into something called “mesophase pitch,” a type of liquid crystal. This can then be converted into high quality carbon fiber or graphite powder. What’s really cool is that almost half of the new carbon fiber comes from scrap carbon.

So why is this a big deal? First, it helps the environment. Instead of leaving the old coal lying around, it is put to good use.

Second, carbon fiber and graphite are very important materials for many industries. By making this technology cheaper and more readily available, it could boost various sectors, including transportation and renewable energy.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is excited about this research. He says it’s great news for the coal industry and the workers who depend on it.

The aim of the project called “C4WARD” is to improve this new method and make the production process even more efficient. The work is supported by the university and also receives support from policy makers who recognize its value to the state and nation.

Rodney Andrews, who leads the CAER team, says this technology could create new jobs and economic opportunities in Kentucky, particularly in communities where coal plays a major role.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and other officials also praised the research, stressing that it is part of the university’s larger goal of addressing big challenges like energy needs and new materials technologies.

In summary, this groundbreaking research from Kentucky turns a waste product into something valuable.

It’s good for the planet, good for the economy, and good for the people who live and work in coal communities. It’s the kind of science that can make a real difference in our lives.

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Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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