Finding power in coffee waste

Researchers have taken waste conversion technology developed for NASA and are testing it on more earthly applications.

Researchers at the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota once worked on technology to convert waste from a space station and future Martian bases into heat and power. Now they're testing their tech on more earthly applications. Like turning coffee waste into power.

The EERC is working with Vermont-based Wynntryst to develop a gasification power system to use the waste from the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters processing plant to produce energy. Never heard of Green Mountain? It's likely you've sipped their product. Green Mountain is best known for its Keurig brand of individual coffee cups. It also distributes other coffee products including Starbucks and McDonald's.

The project will use a mostly renewable and bio-based waste and convert it into electricity for the coffee industry, Deputy Associate Director for Research Chris Zygarlicke said in the statement this week. The waste stream that will be used includes coffee residues, plastic packaging, paper, cloth or burlap and plastic cups.

Researchers will first try to demonstrate they can gasify the complex mixture of waste and produce clean synthetic gas, or syngas, by using the EERC's advanced fixed-bed gasifier. The syngas would then be used in an internal combustion engine (or a fuel cell) to produce electricity and heat; or it will be converted to biofuels or chemicals. The pilot-scale tests will determine the quality of syngas that can be produced from the Green Mountain waste. If successful, the EERC will propose a full-scale commercial demonstration system to be installed at various Green Mountain sites.

Photo: Flickr user Pen waggener, CC 2.0


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