The power of ‘SCIENCE!’ is at work again, and this time it’s turning the world’s most littered and hated trash into electronic treasure, thanks to the work of a group of researchers at Seoul National University in South Korea.
The research, which presumably came about after some scientists grew tired of having to charge their smartphones two and three times a day because they were watching too many Gangnam Style video tutorials, could spell the end of having to schlep your smartphone charger everywhere you go.
Consider the wheel, or uh, battery reinvented
This life-altering scientific breakthrough would mean replacing the lithium ion batteries currently used in smartphones, laptops and tablet devices with a modified supercapacitor, which would not only mean fewer charges but also faster charge times.
In case you were wondering, a supercapacitor is a fast charging device capable of storing huge amounts of energy, and it’s found in most desktop computers. However, the core component of a supercapacitor is graphene, a type of carbon-based material, which just happens to be highly expensive to produce and is the main reason the technology isn’t used more often.
But the modified super capacitor developed by the Korean researchers would replace graphene using another carbon-based material produced using a process called pyrolisys. Pyrolisys is really just a fancy schmancy word for the thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen, through which the fibres that make up the butt (or filter) of a cigarette are transformed into a suitable replacement for the costly graphene and can be used in supercapacitors.
But don’t begin stockpiling used ciggie butts just yet
The main problem with the supercapacitor technology, however, is that it’s too large to be used in most portable devices (like laptops) never mind in a handheld device like a smartphone. So while the Koreans have been busy trying to find sustainable uses for mangy old cigarette butts, the Israelis have been trying to shrink the size of a supercapacitor to fit a smartphone.
Since it probably won’t be long before a cigarette butt powers your next smartphone, the tobacco industry really need not fear the day when people realise that smoking is probably definitely a bad idea. Because everyone wants to live in a world where they never have to utter the words, “Scuse me… Do have a phone charger I can borrow, by any chance?” ever again. Ever.