Chinese scientists claim cigarette butts can be useful

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Scientists from China stated they have discovered a method to use million of cigarette butts discarded by smokers everywhere – on streets, parks, playgrounds and other places – the butts can be used as corrosion protection for steel pipes.

The remainders of the smoked cigarettes, which are considered to be the major form of litter across the world, contain chemicals that could hurt the environment, kill marine debris etc. However, this problem may be solved, if scientists discovered new ways to use cigarette butts.


“If you use public transport and make a lot of walking you can confirm that cigarette butts can be seen everywhere, on the streets, grass and even beaches ,” stated Jun Zhao, a Xi’an Jiaotong University Ph.D. student at the. “So, we though it was very important to carry out a research project about the protection of the environment.”

The research is especially important for China, home to almost 30 percent of the world’s smokers, a number nearly the same as the whole population of the United States. Chine is also the largest cigarette maker and tobacco grower in the world.

The research group led by Zhao declared last week they have discovered that cigarette remnants absorbed in water can assist in protection of steel pipes used by the oil industry for offshore drilling from the corrosion.
The results of the study can be read in the Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research Journal published by the American Chemical Society.

Jun Zhao admitted she decided to carry out the research when she saw that the butts change their usual brown color to the antiseptics color after they sunk in the water. This finding inspired the young scientist to try to find out whether the butts and the marine water can enter into reaction.

Zhao began gathering cigarette butts needed for the research almost 1.5 year ago, collecting them from the sidewalks, ground, ashtrays, and even asking her friends who smoked to keep the butts.

“I think I have collected thousands of butts, as I was not sure how many I would need in my research,” she admitted.

The scientists discovered that extracts from water that reacted with cigarette butts could significantly guard N80 sort steel from rusting while being in hydrochloric acid at 194 degrees F. Such steep is generally used in production of oil drilling machinery and it cost oil companies billions of dollars when these pipes rust.

A substance received from burning of cigarettes is what saves steel from rusting, Zhao said, mentioning that she intended to carry out a research on the impact of cigarette butts chemicals in preventing corrosion in other steel types.

Guy D. Davis, Baltimore, MD based consultant specializing on surface treatments research confirmed that the discovery is highly convincing.

Davis has already studied the effects of tobacco chemicals on metals and found out that tobacco appeared to be one of the most effective plant-based inhibitors.

However, usage of tobacco to prevent corrosion in metals has its restrictions, admitted Davis, because it could create an odious smell over time and become a nutrient for mold.

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