Researchers at America’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have discovered a process that renders polyethylene far more valuable. By transforming it into carbon fibres, they have created the ability to tailor final material to various applications. Led by Dr Amit Naskar of the Materials Science and Technology Division, the research team has achieved success using a combination of multi-component fibre spinning and an intricate sulfonation technique. The fibres yielded to date by the patent-pending process all display a customised surface contour and manipulated filament diameter down to the sub-micron scale, according to the ORNL. According to Dr Naskar, this new process also allows for the fine-tuning of porosity, making the material potentially useful for filtration, catalysis and electrochemical energy harvesting. And so the possibilities are ‘virtually endless’ - especially as the raw material is so abundant and inexpensive, states the researcher.