Composting is generally when people take food waste and recycle it into fertilizer for gardens.
However, a group of researchers is now looking at the composting process as a way to combine it with rubber to optimize the material for electronic sealants and sensors.
Natural rubber is obtained by tapping the Hevea brasiliensis tree where it is then used for tires, boots and many more items because it is flexible, elastic and durable. But rubber isn’t pure when it hits the streets as fillers are added to enhance its properties. Generally, the filler is carbon black, which ends up negatively impacting the rubber’s color and other properties.
Looking for a way to replace carbon black in rubber, researchers have been exploring using graphitic nanocarbons as fillers. The problem is these materials are not cost-efficient and are typically not consistent in terms of size.
The team instead used graphitic nanocarbons made from the methane produced by decomposing food, which is far less expensive, easy to acquire and sustainable. Researchers found that the nanocarbons produced were also small and consistently sized, making them ideal for fillers.
When combined with natural rubber to form a composite, the team found the rubber to have electrical resistivity, which shows that the material could be used as a sealant for electrical devices. The composite only gained conductivity when loaded with 10 percent of the weight of the nanocarbons, meaning the material could be used for developing sensors and a viable competitor to carbon black for filler.
The full research can be found in the American Chemical Society.