Can old CD’s fight pollution as activated carbon?

January 23, 2017

Can old CD’s fight pollution as activated carbon?

While it was once considered a technological revolution for the music industry, in millions of homes the CD is now nothing more than a crafty coaster project or trash destined for the nearest landfill. The sheer volume of CD waste is actually staggering. There are currently hundreds of billions of CD’s in circulation with many millions now ending-up in landfills around the world. The problem with CD’s and DVD’s is that they don’t break down easily. Some experts estimate it could take 1 million years for a CD to decompose on its own. So what are we supposed to do with all this waste? A group of scientists say turning them into gas and pollution sponges may be the answer.

The researchers from Poland and the U.S. have figured out a way to process the disks into two kinds of activated carbon a highly porous material made from heating a substance at high temperatures. Used widely in water and air purification, activated carbon has traditionally been manufactured from natural sources such as coconut shells or wood. But faced with increasing waste of all kinds, scientists have been trying to create activated carbon out of everyday plastic products. 

Elsewhere, researchers have even shown how to turn coffee grounds into an activated carbon material that captures methane. The power of activated carbon for purifying the air may prove to be limitless. 

If you need a visual on just how powerful activated carbon is, only one teaspoon of activated carbon has the surface area of an entire football field. That makes for a lot of pores and fissures where gases and pollutants can be trapped.

The CD activated carbon created by the scientists was able to successfully suck up carbon dioxide, hydrogen gas and benzene, a cancer-causing compound used in industrial processes.

Their study was published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering

Activated Carbon Fast Facts:

  • Activated carbon is used in gas masks
  • It's ingested by hospital patients and health nuts
  • Is built to hunters clothes to mask their human odor
  • Has been made into underwear to absorb flatulence



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