New breakthrough into turning coffee grounds into biofuels

Researchers at Lancaster University have found a way to make it more efficient to turn old coffee waste into cleaner biofuels. In 2014, more than nine million tonnes of used coffee grounds were sent to landfill.

Good news for caffeine addicts: for every latte, cappuccino or Americano you drink, you could be producing the raw material for a greener biofuel that would help us reduce our reliance on diesel for fossil fuels.

At least, that’s how researchers at Lancaster University envision the future. According to a statement, university researchers have found a way to significantly improve the efficiency of using spent coffee grounds to make biofuels – giving a huge boost to the coffee-biofuel’s commercial competitiveness.

A small number of businesses are already using spent coffee grounds to make biofuels, but the Lancaster University researchers have found a way to consolidate the existing multi-stage process into one step that combines extraction of the oils from the spent coffee grounds and the conversion of it into coffee biodiesel.

“Our method vastly reduces the time and cost needed to extract the oils for biofuel making spent coffee grounds a much more commercially competitive source of fuel,” said Najdanovic-Visak from Lancaster University’s Engineering Department.

“A huge amount of spent coffee grounds, which are currently just being dumped in landfill, could now be used to bring significant environmental benefits over diesel from fossil fuel sources.”

The process has the potential to enable 720,000 tonnes of biodiesel to be produced each year from spent coffee grounds.

Purpose-grown feedstocks for biodiesels are controversial because of their cost and the demand they place on land and water. Spent coffee grounds offer a good low-cost alternative feedstock, however, most used coffee grounds are currently just dumped. In 2014 more than nine million tonnes of spent coffee grounds were sent to landfill.


Image credit: Julian Schroeder, flickr/Creative Commons

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