Monday, August 2, 2010

Biodiesel From Coffee Grounds?

This is an all too familiar sight in the Pacific Northwest. Espresso machines everywhere. But in addition to the velvety coffee they make, what is a common byproduct of the whooshing and tapping?

Coffee grounds.

It turns out that the University of Missouri College of Food and Natural Resources is turning that byproduct into valuable fuel: biodiesel.

From the grounds they collected, U of M students turned the residual oil into a fuel. A success as part of their research, evaluating alternative feedstocks such as vegetable oils, used cooking oils and gasified shredded tires.

From their press release: "The properties of the coffee oil are similar to the properties of soybean oil, the major source of biodiesel," said Bulent Koc, assistant professor of agricultural systems management.

According to the National Coffee Association, global growers produce more than 16 billion pounds of coffee each year.  That's a lot of "alternative feedstocks." Some scientists estimate that spent coffee grounds can potentially add 340 million gallons of biodiesel yearly to the world's fuel supply.

It is said that educating students is as much art as it is science. The ultimate art form in this example is connecting two somewhat unrelated topics and creating a compelling case for scientific exploration. This is so much more than "out of the box" thinking. It is helping our students to combine unrelated elements of our society to produce solutions to aid that same society.

Your continuing work as educators helps our students do just that.


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