Multifunctional Carbon Fibers from Chemical Upcycling of Mask Waste
Polymer Science and Engineering
Over the past years, disposable masks have been produced in unprecedented amounts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their increased use imposes significant strain on current waste management practices including landfilling and incineration. This results in large volumes of discarded masks entering the environment as pollutants, and alternative methods of waste management are required to mitigate the negative effects of mask pollution. While current recycling methods can supplement conventional waste management, the necessary processes result in a product with downgraded material properties and a loss of value. This work introduces a simple method to upcycle mask waste into multifunctional carbon fibers through simple steps of thermal stabilization and pyrolysis. The pre-existed fibrous structure of polypropylene masks can be directly converted into carbonaceous structures with high degrees of carbon yield, that are inherently sulfur-doped, and porous in nature. The mask-derived carbon product demonstrates potential use in multiple applications such as for Joule heating, oil adsorption, and the removal of organic pollutants from aqueous environments. We believe that this process can provide a useful alternative to conventional waste management by converting mask waste generated during the COVID-19 pandemic into a product with enhanced value.
Obando, A. G.,
(2022). Multifunctional Carbon Fibers from Chemical Upcycling of Mask Waste. ACS Omega, 7(14), 12278-12287.
Available at: https://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/19862