Coffee could fuel future cars

(Photo: Rudolf Vlček / Flickr)(Photo: Rudolf Vlček / Flickr)

Environmental engineers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) are working on a new way to fuel vehicles with used coffee grounds.

The idea of fueling cars with coffee is nothing new. In fact, according to a March report from The Atlantic Cities, some vehicles have been running on discarded coffee grounds for a few years now.

But, as The Atlantic Cities reports, UC engineers are mixing things up a bit by using every part of the coffee bean.

According to UC, the process involves extracting the oil from old coffee grounds, purifying that oil by filtering it back through grounds and burning the remaining grounds for alternative energy.

Research to create the new fuel began in 2010, when researchers gathered old coffee grounds in a five-gallon bucket from a Starbucks store on campus. They removed the oil from the grounds, converted the oil into biodiesel and purified the biodiesel using the dried grounds.

The university says the discovery “might someday serve as a cheaper, cleaner fuel for our cars, furnaces and other energy sources,” adding that it could also reduce the amount of waste in landfill.

“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,” UC reports. “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 manufacture biodiesel.”

The fuel would also emit less carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and particulate matters (PM).