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Studies look at repurposing textile waste and tracking plastic products

An Australian study is looking at how textile waste could be turned into materials for next-generation batteries. 

Backed by the QUT’s Institute for Future Environments (IFE) Catapult program, the project will research a new use for textile waste, including manufacturing scraps, unwanted clothing and cotton gin trash.

Dr Deepak Dubat said the textile industry is second only to the oil and gas industry in terms of pollution. 

“According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians buy an average of 27kg of new clothes a year and discard 23kg of old clothing,

“This project aims to transform textile waste into high value-added carbon material for potassium ion batteries (KIB),” Dubal said. 

Because of the high cost of the electrode material and the limits of lithium resources, potassium ion batteries are seen as a likely replacement in the next few decades.

Dubal said cotton contains pure cellulose, which is a rich source of carbon, which made cotton an ideal source for electrodes for potassium ion batteries.

Through funding from the Catapult program, another researcher,  Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik, will look at how the problem of illegal plastic waste dumping could be tackled by embedding a molecular code into plastic products so they could be identified.

Associate Professor Alice Payne will research is looking at developing robotic systems to disassemble discarded clothing for recycling.

IFE executive director Kerrie Wilson said the Catapult program supported short-term, higher-risk interdisciplinary research projects.

“It’s really about helping to feed and sustain that spark of creativity and inspiration to deliver a solution with real-world impact,” Wilson said.

 “IFE’s mission is to create and exchange knowledge that makes our world more sustainable, secure and resilient, and these four exciting projects all illustrate QUT’s leadership in fostering research that can lead to better outcomes for our planet.

“By bringing together researchers from across QUT to collaborate and combine their expertise and giving them access to world-class research infrastructure, IFE acts as the catalyst, helping to amplify the research and innovation process.”