Scientists from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea found that heating coffee beans to 700-900°C could produce stable levels of carbon capture, capable of absorbing 7% of the coffee beans’ body weight in methane in just 24 hours.

The author of the resulting paper published in the journal Nanotechnology, Christian Kemp, said: “The big thing is we are decreasing the fabrication time and we are using cheap materials. The waste material is free compared to all the metals and expensive organic chemicals needed in other processes – in my opinion this is a far easier way to go.”

Kemp started the research into coffee beans despite working on another project at the time. He said: “We were sitting around drinking coffee and looked at the coffee grounds and thought ‘I wonder if we can use this for methane storage?'”

Methane has a global warming potential 34 times higher than carbon dioxide. Methane capture and storage provides a double environmental return: it removes a harmful greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and it can then be used as a fuel that is cleaner than other fossil fuels.

The Ulsan researchers are hopeful that the methane from used coffee beans can be used as a clean energy fuel for cars in the future.

Global menace

Coffee innovations

Coffee has already been recognised for its potential as a biofuel. Network Rail recently announced a partnership with bio-bean, a company that recycles waste coffee into biofuel. The partnership will see Network Rail create biofuel from the 700 tonnes of coffee waste it produces annually.

Meanwhile, sustainable farming organisation UTZ Certified has been using the wastewater from various Latin American coffee plants to help protect water resources and tackle climate change.

Matt Mace

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