Used Coffee Grounds Have a New Purpose

Sep 02, 2015 08:36 PM EDT

Ever thought about what you could do with the soggy coffee grounds left over from your morning brew? Researchers from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) have gone steps beyond simple composting--they've developed a method for treating this waste to store methane.

According to a news release, the scientists developed a simple process that develops a carbon-capturing material. Their method involves soaking the coffee ground waste in sodium hydroxide and heating it to 700-900 degrees Celsius. 

"The big thing is we are decreasing the fabrication time and we are using cheap materials," Christian Kemp, one of the study's authors from Pohang University of Science and Technology, said in the release. "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."

The researchers also noted absorbency helps the coffee grounds to capture the carbon. "It seems when we add the sodium hydroxide to form the activated carbon it absorbs everything," Kemp said. "We were able to take away one step in the normal activation process -- the filtering and washing -- because the coffee is such a brilliant absorbent."

The researchers are also examining hydrogen storage in coffee grounds. Their research was recently published in the journal Nanotechnology

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