A Science Foundation Ireland project aiming to turn plastic waste into sustainable materials for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries.

The Challenge

Ireland is the EU’s largest producer of plastic waste per capita, generating 61 kg per person/year and less than 30% of this is recycled; the rest is buried in landfills or incinerated, having severe ramifications for the climate. A traditional linear economy following the principle of ‘take, make and waste’ is not sustainable and alternative waste-management solutions must become a top priority for EU countries. Carbon recovery from plastics via thermal treatment under anoxic conditions (without oxygen) is over 50% meaning that at least half of the carbon contained in plastics can be recovered and consequently far less CO2 would be released to the atmosphere, compared to presently used incineration methods. In addition to plastic waste management, energy storage is one of the most pressing global issues of today. The rapid adaptation of portable and wearable electronics and electric vehicles, as well as market forecasts which suggest that the global rechargeable battery market will be valued at $87.5 billion by 2027, clearly indicate that there will be a prolonged need for cost effective battery electrode materials for the foreseeable future.

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Our Solution

The overall aim of this project is to develop a state-of-the-art, scalable method to convert our excessive amounts of plastic waste (water bottles, shopping bags, etc.) into useful, value-added porous carbon materials (PCMs) which will be used as electrodes for advanced lithium-sulfur (Li–S) batteries. This is the first time that carbons derived from plastics will be used as cathode materials for Li–S batteries. The possibility of producing sustainable, useful carbon nanostructures from materials that are currently destined for incineration or landfills represents an exciting, promising route for waste reduction and the adaptation of a circular economy for plastics. Utilizing PCMs in Li–S batteries will concurrently address two of the most pressing global issues of today, plastic waste management and energy storage.

SFI Future Innovator Prize Winners

In an SFI press release this week, Minister Harris (Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science) has formally announced the 15 research projects that have been shortlisted for the SFI Future Innovator Prize, focusing on future innovation programmes in food waste and plastic. Plasma-LiS is one of 10 recipients under the SFI Plastics Challenge, […]


The PLASMA-LiS Challenge Team members: Team Lead: Prof. Kevin M. Ryan, Bernal Institute and Department of Chemical Sciences, University of Limerick; Team Co-Lead: Dr. David McNulty, Bernal Institute and Department of Chemical Sciences, University of Limerick; Societal Impact Champion: Ms. Kathrin Kopke, Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI), Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork; […]