New technology turns carbon from recycled tires into graphite

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Australian tire recycler Green Distillation Technologies (GDT) has partnered with CarbonScape, a company based in New Zealand, to turn the carbon created in its recycling process into high value graphite.

GDT’s tire recycling process converts waste tires into oil, carbon and steel. CarbonScape has developed patented technology that turns sawdust and waste biomass into high-purity, high-value carbon products, including graphite.

It has been discovered that the carbon produced by GDT’s tire recycling technology is highly compatible with CarbonScape’s process for producing graphite.

Graphite is a non-metallic mineral and the most stable form of carbon. It is chemically inert, corrosion resistant, has a high melting point of 3,650°C and is a good conductor of electricity.

Potential end uses of high-purity graphite are in Lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and stationary storage, solar panels, supercapacitors and other electronic applications.

Graphite is defined as a ‘critical strategic mineral’ in the USA and Europe and global demand is growing at 5.8% per annum. In 2018 it was 4.2 million metric tons, worth US$30bn. The market for high purity graphite for Li-ion batteries is forecast to grow at an annual 26% to 2029 with pricing estimates of US$5,000 per metric ton.

GDT has a tire processing plant in Warren, western New South Wales, which is where the co-development of graphite will take place. The two companies are also in the capital fund raising stage for their second commercial plant in Toowoomba, southern Queensland, having secured all the necessary government approvals.

According to GDT’s chief operating officer, Trevor Bayley, the key to operating a successful business in terms of having a circular economy is to maximize the return on the materials they produce.

“We have a contract with Southern Oil Refineries to supply its sister company, Northern Oil of Gladstone, with all our oil as it is regarded as light crude and easy to refine into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products – and of course the current world price for oil is very high. Our carbon is high quality for use in a variety of products such as printer’s ink, computer cartridges and even cosmetics. By enhancing it to graphite it could sell for multiples of the current price, which is a very significant difference.

“Our technical director, Denis Randall, who developed the process, has long advocated that resource recovery is the key to successful recycling and this direction we are taking is consistent with that aim.”

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Rachel's career in journalism began around five years ago when she started working for UKi Media & Events, having recently graduated from Coventry University where she studied the subject. Her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the ground-breaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of the automotive and tire industries.

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