How to pave over our big butt problem

August 06, 2017

Soon the footpath you walk on could be full of cigarette butts, instead of being littered with them.

Trillions of cigarette butts are produced every year worldwide, with most discarded into the environment. They take ages to break down while their toxic chemical load is released into creeks, rivers and the ocean.

Now a team at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, led by Dr Abbas Mohajerani has demonstrated that asphalt mixed with cigarette butts can handle heavy traffic and also reduce thermal conductivity.

This means the product could not only solve a huge waste problem but would also be useful in reducing the urban heat island effect common in cities.

Mohajerani, a senior lecturer in RMIT's School of Engineering, said he was keen to find solutions to mounting cigarette butt waste.

"I have been trying for many years to find sustainable and practical methods for solving the problem of cigarette butt pollution," Mohajerani said.

"In this research, we encapsulated the cigarette butts with bitumen and paraffin wax to lock in the chemicals and prevent any leaching from the asphalt concrete. The encapsulated cigarettes butts were mixed with hot asphalt mix for making samples," Mohajerani said.

"Encapsulated cigarette butts developed in this research will be a new construction material which can be used in different applications and lightweight composite products.

"This research shows that you can create a new construction material while ridding the environment of a huge waste problem."

About 6 trillion cigarettes are produced every year, leading to more than 1.2 million tonnes of cigarette butt waste. These figures are expected to increase by more than 50 per cent by 2025, mainly due to an increase in world population.

"Cigarette filters are designed to trap hundreds of toxic chemicals and the only ways to control these chemicals are either by effective encapsulation for the production of new lightweight aggregates or by the incorporation in fired clay bricks," Mohajerani said.

Mohajerani became a world-renowned researcher in 2016 for his research in recycling cigarette butts in bricks.

The project is the result of five years of research. It has been published in the journal of Construction and Building Materials (Elsevier). The DOI is 10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2017.07.091
-end-
For interviews: Dr Abbas Mohajerani, +61 3 9925 3082 or +61 410 484 034 or abbas.mohajerani@rmit.edu.au

For general media enquiries: David Glanz, +61 3 9925 2807 or +61 438 547 723 or david.glanz@rmit.edu.au

RMIT University

Related Engineering Articles from Brightsurf:

Re-engineering antibodies for COVID-19
Catholic University of America researcher uses 'in silico' analysis to fast-track passive immunity

Next frontier in bacterial engineering
A new technique overcomes a serious hurdle in the field of bacterial design and engineering.

COVID-19 and the role of tissue engineering
Tissue engineering has a unique set of tools and technologies for developing preventive strategies, diagnostics, and treatments that can play an important role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.

Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.

Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.

New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.

Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.

Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.

Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.

Read More: Engineering News and Engineering Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.