Today’s Solutions: March 03, 2024

In a classic case of ‘two birds, one stone’, scientists at Rice University have come up with a clever solution for food waste and plastic waste. The solution comes in the form of a new process that can turn bulk quantities of carbon-based materials such as food waste into flash graphene—a powerful material that can help facilitate a massive reduction of the environmental impact of concrete and other building materials.

According to Rice Professor James Tour, just adding as little as 0.1 percent of flash graphene in the cement used to bind concrete could lessen its environmental impact by a third. That reduction is enormous when you consider that cement production emits 8 percent of all human-made CO2.

As reported in Nature, flash graphene is made in 10 milliseconds by heating carbon-containing materials to 3,000 Kelvin (about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit). The source material can be nearly anything with carbon content. Food waste, plastic waste, petroleum coke, coal, or wood clippings.

In the past, graphene has been extremely expensive to produce, but this flash process drastically lowers the cost while simultaneously removing waste. It’s a win-win.

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