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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -
For many of us, it's the fuel that wakes us up
and gets us started on our day. Now, University of Cincinnati researchers are
discovering that an ingredient in our old coffee grounds might someday serve as
a cheaper, cleaner fuel for our cars, furnaces and other energy sources.
Yang Liu, a graduate student in environmental
engineering in UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), presents
a summary of early-but-promising discoveries on his team's research at the
American Chemical Society's (ACS) 246th National Meeting & Exposition this
week in Indianapolis.
Liu and fellow researchers Qingshi Tu, a UC
doctoral student in environmental engineering, and Mingming Lu, a UC associate
professor of environmental engineering, used a three-pronged approach to
converting waste coffee grounds into energy sources including biodiesel and
activated carbon by:
Extracting oil from the waste.
Drying the waste coffee grounds
after oil removal to filter impurities in biodiesel production.
Burning what was left as an
alternative energy source for electricity, similar to using biomass.
researchers launched the project in 2010, gathering waste coffee grounds in a
five-gallon bucket from a Starbucks store on UC's campus. After collection,
they removed the oil from the waste coffee grounds and converted triglycerides
(oil) into biodiesel and the byproduct, glycerin. The coffee grounds were then
dried and used to purify the biodiesel they derived from the waste coffee
The preliminary results showed that the oil
content in the waste coffee grounds was between 8.37-19.63 percent, and
biodiesel made from coffee oil meets the ASTM International D6751 standard. The
efficiency of using the waste coffee grounds as a purification material to
remove the impurities in crude biodiesel, such as methanol and residual
glycerin, was slightly lower compared with commercial purification products.
However, the researchers report that results still indicate a promising
alternative, considering the cost of purification products. Future research
will continue to focus on improving the purification efficiency of waste coffee
grounds-derived activated carbon.
Compared with petroleum diesel, the
cleaner-burning biodiesel reduces the emission of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons
and particular matters (PM).
Waste coffee grounds that result from brewing
one of the world's most popular beverages is estimated to result in more than
one million tons per year in the U.S. alone, with the majority of that waste
getting dumped into landfills.
The researchers say the method they're exploring
to produce biodiesel would not only open landfill space, but it also holds
promise in creating biodiesel from a natural product that's not also in high
demand as a food source, such as corn and soybean crops that are used to
The project was among four proposals selected
for a $500 grant last spring from the UC
Invents initiative, an enterprise led by UC Student Government and
the UC student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery to share
ideas and encourage innovation in campus life.