Partnership to drive innovation in recovered carbon black

Wastefront AS and Newcastle University have announced a partnership to undertake a study into the characterization and enhancement of Wastefront’s recovered carbon black (rCB).

Newcastle University’s partnership with Wastefront will see what it calls “cutting-edge industry innovation emerge from research conceived in the North of England, ensuring the region is at the forefront of progressing circularity across Europe”.

The work is timely, as Wastefront gears up to play a crucial role in eliminating the UK’s waste tires export, by creating a local, circular solution to a global problem.

Through preventing the burning of waste tires in cement kilns, Wastefront will use commercial operating technologies to convert end-of-life-tyres (ELTs) into what it calls “useful commodities”, including rCB.

The study will focus on rCB interaction with rubbers and its correlation with prospective industrial applications, directly supporting Wastefront’s efforts to enable the rCB it produces to be used in new products.

The scope of work undertaken by Newcastle University over the next 18 months will:

  1. Quantify the interaction of the rCB with a set of different solvents which have varying degrees of dispersion interaction.
  2. Develop methods to better understand the nature of the surface within the rCB material.
  3. Investigate applications for the rCB in other materials.

Of significance, within this scope of work, the study will develop methods to reduce inorganic components in rCB, improving its chemical and material properties to ensure Wastefront produces a superior product compared with its rCB competitors. This will include identifying rCB reinforcement in rubber goods.

Recovered carbon black

Wastefront CTO, Henrik Selstam, comments: “Circularity is central to the work Wastefront is undertaking to tackle the scourge of ELTs – and expanding our understanding of recovered carbon black is key to realizing this goal. As we continue to grow, so too will the uses and capabilities of the products we produce – none more so than recovered carbon black.

“We are delighted to partner with Newcastle University to further advance the commercial capabilities of recovered carbon black through our joint studies. “Ensuring we can continue to implement our at-scale solution in the UK, Europe and Globally will require the input of leading experts in their fields, so we look forward to working closely with Professor Novakovic, Professor Bull, Dr Thumbarathy and Dr Blackburn in the months ahead.”

Newcastle University Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research Strategy and Resources, Professor Brian Walker, adds: “At Newcastle University we are delighted to add this exciting partnership with Wastefront to our portfolio of research that advances sustainable innovation and the circular economy and enables progress towards a net-zero economy.

Circularity is central to the work Wastefront is undertaking to tackle the scourge of ELTs – and expanding our understanding of recovered carbon black is key to realizing this goal.

“We are especially pleased that Wastefront will promote inclusive economic growth here in the North East, with its roots in the local area and the construction of its new plant at the Port of Sunderland.”

Wastefront uses pyrolytic reactors that utilize thermal depolymerisation known as ‘pyrolysis’ to break down a tire’s materials at elevated temperatures. By sending tires through these reactors, recovered carbon black (a substitute for virgin carbon black) is produced, in addition to combustible gas, liquid hydrocarbon, and heat.

The carbon black is then washed and milled to upgrade the chemical properties and can be used as a complement to natural rubber in tire production, mechanical rubber goods or as a filler for plastics.

Once fully operational in 2025, Wastefront’s £100 million tire recycling plant in Sunderland will produce rCB from a supply of 20% of the UK’s annual total of ELTs.

By integrating Wastefront’s rCB into new tires, the emissions for each tire subsequently produced will be reduced by 80%.

Wastefront was founded in Oslo in 2019 and aims to reduce the negative environmental impact associated with end-of-life tire waste while delivering an economically attractive solution to strategic partners on a global scale.

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