On the Use of Carbon Cables from Plastic Solvent Combinations of Polystyrene and Toluene in Carbon Nanotube Synthesis

Nanomaterials (Basel). 2021 Dec 21;12(1):9. doi: 10.3390/nano12010009.


For every three people on the planet, there are approximately two Tonnes (Te) of plastic waste. We show that carbon recovery from polystyrene (PS) plastic is enhanced by the coaddition of solvents to grow carbon nanotubes (CNTs) by liquid injection chemical vapour deposition. Polystyrene was loaded up to 4 wt% in toluene and heated to 780 °C in the presence of a ferrocene catalyst and a hydrogen/argon carrier gas at a 1:19 ratio. High resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and Raman spectroscopy were used to identify multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). The PS addition in the range from 0 to 4 wt% showed improved quality and CNT homogeneity; Raman "Graphitic/Defective" (G/D) values increased from 1.9 to 2.3; mean CNT diameters increased from 43.0 to 49.2 nm; and maximum CNT yield increased from 11.37% to 14.31%. Since both the CNT diameters and the percentage yield increased following the addition of polystyrene, we conclude that carbon from PS contributes to the carbon within the MWCNTs. The electrical contact resistance of acid-washed Bucky papers produced from each loading ranged from 2.2 to 4.4 Ohm, with no direct correlation to PS loading. Due to this narrow range, materials with different loadings were mixed to create the six wires of an Ethernet cable and tested using iPerf3; the cable achieved up- and down- link speeds of ~99.5 Mbps, i.e., comparable to Cu wire with the same dimensions (~99.5 Mbps). The lifecycle assessment (LCA) of CNT wire production was compared to copper wire production for a use case in a Boeing 747-400 over the lifespan of the aircraft. Due to their lightweight nature, the CNT wires decreased the CO2 footprint by 21 kTonnes (kTe) over the aircraft's lifespan.

Keywords: carbon footprint; carbon nanotube; chemical recycling; circular economy; data transmission; ethernet; life cycle assessment; plastic.