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AUS students put scrap tyres to eco-friendly use

www.khaleejtimes.com    7/15/2010 9:31:00 AM    ReadCount:649

DUBAI — If not fitted onto a vehicle, rubber tyres are nothing but a hazard to the environment as they are not biodegradable.
Chemical engineering student of the American University of Sharjah, Laura Kherbeck and her team members Farida Saif, Laura Kherbeck, Asma Malik and Onoud S. Al Marzouqi have found that on an average, every UAE resident is a contributor of one scrap tyre per year.
That is more than the required 5,000 tonnes this graduating group needs annually to feed into their proposed carbon plant providing not only a solution for appropriate tyre disposal but also extracting useful products that can be sold to various industries.
“The rubber tyres are not biodegradable and are harmful to the environment,” Kherbeck, said.
“Our process uses a method of pyrolysis to obtain oil, gas and char from scrap tyres.”
“The char that is comprised of carbon black, minerals, sulphur and steel wire is put through another process to ultimately derive activated carbon,” she said.
Activated carbon is a processed form of carbon and a powdery substance that is used for purposes including water purification, sewage treatment, filters and in the food industry.
The team submitted their final university project for the DuPont Bright Ideas Eco Challenge and bagged the first place for their year-long research recently.
Saif stated only a small fraction of the scrap tyres are being recycled in the UAE. “Some are burnt and used for road construction but that accounts for only 10 per cent of its utilisation,” she said.
In Sharjah, Beeah, a public-private waste management company has opened a Tyre Reconvery Facility (TRF) to recycle tyres into crumb rubber that can be used to build roads. 
“The remaining waste tyres in landfills is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and rodents,” she added.
Procurement of the raw material for their plant will be no hassle with more than 60 million tyres dumped in the country’s numerous landfills.
“We called various waste management companies and were told the material can be 
acquired for free,” Saif, said.
Treating rubber emits toxins that have a lasting effect and cause health concerns if not done in a controlled environment. The students have developed a system that will keep polluting emissions at bay. Team member Malik explains that the entire process has been developed to benefit the community.
“The waste tyres will go through a sequence of steps that use a very efficient and the latest environmental control system since tyres do release polluted gases making it hard to get rid of them,” she said.
Extracting activated carbon and other byproducts from rubber tyres has been a research topic for many years but the students said it has not been put to practice effectively.
“There is something on these lines being done in Hong Kong but certainly nowhere in the Middle East,” Kherbeck, said.
“Our proposed plant is unique because it has a system that ensures there is no further pollution.”
The team is planning to approach the Sheikh Khalifa Fund for Support and Development of Small and Medium Enterprises to get their project off the ground.
“If we get a grant we are looking to start up the lab for the process with the help of the university,” Saif said.