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Startup develops next generation fast-charging EV battery using surprising material: 'New solutions can be found from waste'

"Natural resources are already very limited."

"The fact that new solutions can be found from waste is very important."

Photo Credit: iStock

Tires stack up in our garages, sheds, and — worse yet — our oceans and waterways. 

Thankfully, there might be a productive option for our worn-out Goodyears and Firestones. 

Chile-based T-Phite is working on a project to recycle old tires through a process that reclaims the graphite they contain. Graphite is a crucial part of electric vehicle anodes. So, if the T-Phite experts can scale their recycling process, they could transform old tire stacks into an element that helps to power our EV future. 

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They should have plenty of raw materials, as there are about 250 million scrap tires generated in the United States alone each year, according to government statistics. 

T-Phite CEO Bernardita Diaz told CBS News that her company's plan utilizes the glut of old tires to create the rarer battery component as part of two clear benefits her team's tech brings to the table.   

"One is the final disposal of tires and the second is the demand that is being generated for electromobility material," she said in the report. 

The T-Phite process is called pyrolysis. CBS described it as breaking the roadrunners down to the molecular level using high heat — leaving oil, steel, and carbon black. The company turns the carbon black into graphitic material, which it calls t-phite.  

Scenes of the process from a CBS video clip show black strips of apparent old tires being fed through a machine that looks like an old wringer-washer. Some other high-tech units are part of the process, as well. 

Tires have long been recycled, often turned into a new product or used to make fuel. But, CBS noted that less than half of the hundreds of thousands of scrapped ones made in the U.S. each year are actually recycled. 

Goodyear is working on a tire made from sustainable soybeans. It's all part of the way we can create better products while better utilizing the spent goods, and even trash, that we generate.

For T-Phite's part, the team wants to take their process global, according to the company website. Helping to supplement the graphite supply is likely to catch the attention of EV industry experts from around the world. 

China is among world leaders in processing and producing graphite, as well as other metals used to make EV batteries. The country recently rolled out graphite export rules that have created worry in the industry about the future supply chain, Reuters reported

"Natural resources are already very limited and the fact that new solutions can be found from waste is very important," Diaz told CBS. 

The news agency gave a hat tip to Oak Ridge National Laboratory research, dating to 2014, regarding harvesting graphite from old tires. 

Now, T-Phite is looking to take the science to an industrial level. CBS reported that Diaz and her team members are talking with investors interested in the technology. 

"When you obtain materials from other waste, you are generating what is known as the circular economy," Diaz told CBS. 

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