My new neighbors are shy and elusive. I don’t see them all the time and when I do see them, it’s usually first thing in the morning. I was so excited to see them when I first saw them, that I ran over to saw Hi, but they ran, no galloped away. Lately I’ve been more respectful of their reticence and have gotten to know them better: I discovered that one of the neighbors is probably a single mom because she was feeding her child out in the open in their backyard…I took a picture of mom and baby and this time she didn’t care….One time they were talking so loudly among each other that my husband heard them mooing in the shower. Yes, my neighbors are cows, nature’s methane producers!
Methane finds a Home in Used Coffee Grounds, or: Is there Anything a Good Cuppa Can’t Do?
We at DFC do love our coffee – but have long been stymied about what to do with the grounds left over once the brewing is through. Sure, we’ve tossed a bit around our garden – but the acidic nature of coffee grounds means we have no place to put them all – except the green bin, or worse, the garbage.
But scientists at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea have figured out a stunningly practical way to reuse the leavings from the beloved morning beverage: as a methane capture and storage method!
The technique involves saturating used coffee grounds in sodium hydroxide, and then heating them up to 700-900°C. In less than a day of processing, you are left with a mass of carbon capture material, ideal for keeping hold of methane, for a fraction of the time and cost needed for traditional methods.
“The absorbency of coffee grounds may be the key to successful activation of the material for carbon capture. ‘It seems when we add the sodium hydroxide to form the activated carbon it absorbs everything,’ says [paper co-author Christian] Kemp. “We were able to take away one step in the normal activation process — the filtering and washing – because the coffee is such a brilliant absorbant.”
Kemp and his colleagues had their bright idea during a coffee meeting for a completely different project. And now, a harmful greenhouse gas can be more easily and cost-effectively removed from the environment, and marshalled as clean energy. (They’re also looking at hydrogen storage too.) Coffee really is the miracle elixir!