Next time you grab coffee at a gas station, be sure to grab an extra cup for your car since it looks like scientists can make the aromatic brown liquid power our automobiles too, according to a study recently published in the Energy & Fuels journal.
Of course these scientists are not talking about your typical Starbucks or Second Cup coffee here, but something called “green” biofuel, produced from leftover coffee grounds. An average coffee shop throws out about 10 kg (22 pounds) of ground coffee, which is what, according the researchers at University of Bath in the U.K., can be used to create biofuel.
Dr. Chris Chuck from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the university shares the same view on coffee waste. “Around 8 million tonnes of coffee is produced globally each year and ground waste coffee contains up to 20 per cent oil per unit weight,” he said. “This oil also has similar properties to current feedstocks used to make biofuels. But, while those are cultivated specifically to produce fuel, spent coffee grounds are waste. Using these, there’s a real potential to produce a truly sustainable second-generation biofuel”
According to the researchers, the process involves extracting oil from coffee grounds, which is done by soaking them in an organic solvent right before going through a process that transforms them into biofuel. They have been able to produce the fuel using both caffeinated and decaffeinated forms of ground coffee.
The journal also states that different varieties of coffee – Arabica and Robusta – all have relatively the same composition and physical attributes. This means that all wasted coffee can be transformed into fuel.
“The yields and properties of biodiesel can differ depending on the growth conditions of current biodiesel feedstocks, sometimes causing them to fall out of specification. The uniformity across the board for the coffee biodiesel fuel is good news for biofuel producers and users,” Chuck noted.
The push for green fuel has been gaining traction in the last few years, with Tesla patenting its technology earlier this week and Toyota pushing out new fuel cell vehicles. So, maybe – and it’s a big maybe – this technology will get picked up as well. Whether you agree or disagree, be sure to leave a comment below!