How cigarette butts, the top plastic polluters, can be upcycled into energy generating devices

An international team of scientists, led by Dr. Sunanda Roy, has successfully developed a novel method to recycle waste cigarette filters for use in making the triboelectric nano generator, an energy generating device.

From cigarette butts to energy harvesting devices

An international team of researchers, led by Dr. Sunanda Roy (Associate Professor of Alliance University, Bangalore), has successfully developed a method to recycle waste cigarette filters for use in energy generating devices. Cigarette ends or filters are the most littered material on the planet. Cigarette filters are made of a plastic called cellulose acetate which is very harmful and takes several years to degrade. Degradation or break down of this plastic can results in microplastics. Moreover, the cigarette butts carry many toxic materials that are harmful to nearby marine life.

Dr. Roy and his team have proposed a new idea that proved the used cigarette filter could be a low cost valuable resource for use in the development of clean energy harvesting devices, known as triboelectric nanogenerators (or better known as TENG), a futuristic source of clean energy for various applications including smart green city. The results of the cigarette-recycling work have been published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. As a secondary outcome of this recycling approach, the paper has also reported how the upcycled cigarette filters could be used for making efficient CO2-capturing adsorbents. Their proposed methodology is indeed promising as it can protect the environment from plastic pollution as well as global warming through the capture of CO2. Moreover, the idea of producing the TENG from the filter could reduce the dependency of the world on fossil fuels.

 The paper can be viewed at This comes after the results of the recycled Polyethylene terephthalate for making TENG were published in the report

 The article reported that selective amine functionalization was carried out to make the filter the developed TENG could generate an output voltage of 96.63 V and current 9.37 μA that are, respectively, 43 and 8 times higher than those obtained employing the pristine CFs for TENG. The TENG can readily light-up 100 colorful LEDs by simple pressing the TENG by finger tips. The TENG displayed outstanding durability to humidity and high-performance stability when it is subjected to cyclic loading (i.e., 12,000 cycles of loading−unloading). Besides that, the modified filter fibers show excellent CO2 adsorption capacity of 1.93 mmol/ 21 g, which is 9.2 times higher than that obtained using the pristine cigarette butt fibers.

 Dr. Roy received his PhD degree in 2012 from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), MA, USA under the Singapore-MIT Alliance Programme. He received his M.TECH in 2007 from IIT-Kharagpur, India. After pursuing his postdoctoral research at NTU, in 2017 he joined Inha University, South Korea as an Assistant Professor. He also served GLA University at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh as an Associate Professor and IIT-Roorkee as a Research Consultant. For the cigarette-TENG project, the other researchers in the international team comprises Prof. Kheng Lim Goh (Newcastle University/Newcastle University in Singapore), Prof. Barnali Dasgupta Ghosh (Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra), Prof. Tanya Das (Techno India University, Salt Lake, Kolkata) Prof. Kamal Sharma (GLA University, Mathura) and Prof. Young-Wook Chang (Hanyang University, Korea). A major part of this project (especially the life cycle assessment, circular economy, etc.) has been taken care by the Newcastle team led by Prof Goh.

 For further details and enquiry on potential collaboration, please contact Dr. Roy Sunanda at ([email protected]) or co-author Kheng Lim Goh at [email protected].

Published: 19 Jul 2022

Contact details:

Dr Kheng Lim Goh

172A Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 #05-01
SIT Building @ Nanyang Polytechnic
Singapore 567739

+65 6908 6073
Academic discipline: 
Content type: 

"From Hazardous Waste to Green Applications: Selective Surface Functionalization of Waste Cigarette Filters for High-Performance Robust Triboelectric Nanogenerators and CO2 Adsorbents", ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2022,

Funding information:

The authors would like to acknowledge the QR SPF FUND- 728 NUCORE ENERGY (NU-007108), UK and Singapore for financial support.