Chemical Recycling Research Contract Awarded by MRC

MRC has awarded a research contract to Pittsburg State University’s Kansas Polymer Research Center. Under the direction of Professor Ram Gupta, the Research Center will chemically modify and evaluate a variety of recycled mattress materials including polyurethane foam, polyester, cotton and coconut fiber to determine if they are suitable for use as battery and supercapacitor components.  

“While this is early stage research, MRC is very interested to learn if upcycled mattress materials can be reconstituted into promising, sustainable end-use applications,” said MRC Managing Director Mike O’Donnell.  

The main components of a battery (or a supercapacitor) are anodes, cathodes and electrolytes. The most common anode materials are carbon, graphene and carbon nanotubes.  The Research Center has already successfully converted waste materials such as coffee powders, cotton cloths, used tea leaves, jute, orange peels, bamboo fibers and corn grain distiller for the production of high-quality carbon for energy storage devices. 

Energy storage is one of the fastest-growing industries. Recent technological advances, particularly with electrode technologies, have yielded safe, high power, rechargeable, long lasting devices. These in turn have enabled growth in the electric vehicle and portable electronic device industries. Low cost energy storage has also enabled more widespread use of renewable energy technologies including solar and wind.  

The contract is part of MRC’s annual $1 million research fund to improve the recyclability of discarded mattresses and build new markets for recycled mattress materials. This initiative also includes evaluating and implementing efficiencies in the mattress recycling process.