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Could Your Car Run On Coffee

By raccars Published

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Soon it may not only be you, the driver, in need of a cup of strong, black coffee to wake you up before the daily commute, it could also be your car... Scientists at the University of Bath are working on a way of making biofuel from coffee beans.

Apparently, around two litres of 'green' biofuel can be made from about 10kg of waste coffee grounds, which may seem a lot even for serious coffee addicts, but it is the amount produced by the average coffee shop on a daily basis. Should scientists succeed in making the process commercially viable, the likes of Costa Coffee or Starbucks could take on petroleum giants, BP, Esso and Shell.

The Bath University research project has succeeded in making coffee biofuel from grounds originating from 20 geographic regions and from both caffeinated and decaffeinated versions of the drink. Varieties, such as Arabica and Robusta, have been tested and proved to be uniform enough in composition and performance to be suitable for fuel production, meaning that any coffee waste could potentially be made into biodiesel. The study's findings have been published in the Energy Fuels trade journal.

The process involves an organic solvent used to soak the coffee grounds, after which a scientific process, called transesterification, turns the otherwise waste product into biodiesel suitable for powering a car. With eight million tonnes of coffee production on an annual basis as the source, those running the project believe this could become a genuinely sustainable fuel source. On a small scale, coffee shops could produce their own fuel for deliveries, while the used grounds could also be collected on a larger scale from big coffee chains, and processed at central biofuel production facilities.

Biodiesel is a vegetable, animal or cooking oil based alternative to conventional fossil fuel diesel. It is usually made from the waste cooking oil produced by restaurants and fast food outlets. Certain feedstocks can be used to make biofuel at a cost, but by using products that would otherwise be considered waste, biofuel production could become cheap enough to be a viable alternative to traditional fossil fuels.

The University of Bath project is not the first time coffee has been used to power a vehicle. Four years ago, 'Bang Goes the Theory,' a science programme on BBC One, modified a 1988 VW Scirocco to run on used coffee grounds. The car drove between Manchester and London, a distance of 210 miles, on the fuel and made an appearance at Manchester's Big Bang science fair.

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