It’s a well-known fact that partly-worn tires have a lower-rolling resistance than brand new ones, leading to a few extra miles of range per charge in an electric car. Although they have a lower-rolling resistance however, worn tires do nothing to help road safety, with less grip resulting in longer stopping distances, less direct handling and an increase risk of tire blow out.
Yet now scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory believe they’ve found a way to use old car tires to extend the range of you electric car in a safe and environmentally conscious way — all without sacrificing vehicle safety, of course.
As it detailed over the weekend in a press release, a team of researchers at ORNL have successfully developed on a way to turn shredded tires into a super-dense anode material for use in lithium-ion battery packs.
Starting with old car and truck tires, the team first shredded and pulverized the tires before putting the resulting compound through a proprietary pretreatment process and subsequence pyrolysis to create something called carbon black. Similar to graphite, the man-made pyroltic material is incredibly energy dense thanks to its porous, high surface area. The higher the surface area, the more electrons can be stored per unit mass.
While laboratory tests have only focused on producing a small, ‘laboratory-scale’ battery using a carbon black anode, the team at ORNL say that after just 100 charge/discharge cycles the battery is already outperforming commercially-available graphite anodes, achieving an energy density of 390 milliamp hours per gram.
“This kind of performance is highly encouraging, especially in light of the fact that the global battery market for vehicles and military applications is approaching $78 million and the materials market is expected to hit $11 billion in 2018,” said Parans Paranthaman, lead researcher on the project. “Using waste tires for products such as energy storage is very attractive not only from the carbon materials recovery perspective but also for controlling environmental hazards caused by waste tire stock piles.”
With anodes accounting for 11 to 15 percent of the materials used by the battery industry, the recycled carbon black anodes could not only increase the range of future electric vehicle battery packs, but also decrease the cost of manufacture, since the materials will be recycled rather than mined.
Better still, adding this new tire use to the growing list of things to do with used tires helps keep them out of landfill and ensure that there’s plenty of life left in a tire long after it has ceased to be useful on the road.
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