Scientists in South Korea say they've found a way of converting used cigarette butts into a material capable of storing energy that could help power mobile phones or even electric cars. In a study published Tuesday in the journal Nanotechnology, researchers from Seoul National University outlined how they transformed the used filters, which are composed mainly of cellulose acetate fibers and are considered toxic when discarded. Professor and study co-author Jongheop Yi said they showed "that used cigarette filters can be transformed into a high-performing carbon-based material using a simple one-step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution to meeting the energy demands of society."
The end result is a so-called supercapacitor, which the scientists said stores more power, charges quicker and lasts longer than available storage alternatives. "Carbon is one of the promising materials considered for use in supercapacitors due to its low cost, high porosity, electronic conductivity and stability," the study added. According to anti-smoking Americans for Non-smokers’ Rights, cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded item worldwide, contributing more than 765,000 tons of waste annually.