Plastic waste that is often difficult and costly to recycle may be upcycled into valuable carbon nanotubes and hybrid nanomaterials using a new flash Joule heating technique, according to researchers at Rice University. Plastic waste has doubled globally over the past 20 years, with most of it going to landfills, incineration or mismanagement. Researchers turned plastic into a hybrid carbon nanomaterial that outperformed graphene and commercially available carbon nanotubes. The new structure of the material, which resembles a “lollipop”, features masses of graphene attached to the ends of the carbon nanotubes. This makes it harder to remove and improves its strength. The process is energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.