Used butt not wasted

June 29, 2010

The Column

The Column, The Column-06-21-2010, Volume 6, Issue 11

It is estimated that up to 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are stubbed, flicked and dropped every year. With few practical uses, any attempt at recycling the remains has been difficult; however a study published in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research proposes using them to prevent steel corrosion and could turn this trash into a tiny treasure.

It is estimated that up to 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are stubbed, flicked and dropped every year. With few practical uses, any attempt at recycling the remains has been difficult; however a study published in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research proposes using them to prevent steel corrosion and could turn this trash into a tiny treasure.1

Researchers in China studied the effect that extracts of cigarette butts in water would have on N80 steel, widely used in the oil industry, in hydrochloric acid. The corrosion of this steel under harsh conditions leads to costly damage and interuptions in production, which reported to cost oil producers millions of dollars annually. LC–MS was used on the butt water and was able to identify nine compounds, including nicotine, that help to inhibit metal corrosion. The inhibition efficiency of extracts in spectroscopic, polarization curve and weight loss studies confirmed this trend and showed that the efficiency was related to the concentration of butt water extracts.

The study suggests that the extracts may inhibit the corrosion via absorption into the metal surface, forming an oxidation film to protect the iron atoms from further dissolution.

1. Jun Zhao et al., Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 49(8), 3986–3991 (2010).

This story originally appeared in The Column. Click here to view that issue.

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