Coffee Grounds to Store Greenhouse Gases

Do your old, damp coffee grounds have the potential to save the world? New research from the journal Nanotechnology states that the same coffee grounds you toss in the trash every day actually have the ability to store methane.

ECS Fellow Meyya Meyyappan and a team of researchers found that by combining the used coffee grounds with potassium hydroxide, a material with the ability to store substantial amounts of methane was created.

Coffee Grounds Fight Climate Change

In light of global warming and the damaging effects rising temperatures and increased greenhouse gas emissions have on the planet, the ability to store harmful methane is critical.

Methane is a preventable greenhouse gas that accounts for about 10 percent of all harmful emissions derived from human activity. While methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as the more commonly talked about carbon dioxide, it is far more devastating to the climate due to its extreme efficiency in absorbing heat. In fact, methane is about 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

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From Food Waste to Fuel

The new development will curtail or reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.Image: University of Cincinnati

The new development will curtail or reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.
Image: University of Cincinnati

The United States is wasting food at an alarming rate. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, the country wastes 40 percent of all food produced—amounting to 1.3 billion tons of food waste produced.

But extra garbage and financial strain are not the only things food waste produces, it also generates a huge amount of greenhouse gas during decomposition. More specifically, global food waste creates 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas annually.

Those numbers were especially alarming to researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science, who proposed a way to transform food waste into bioenergy back in 2013. That proposal has just been accepted.

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open_access“Comprehensive scientific assessments of our current and potential future climates clearly indicate that climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities, and potentially a very serious problem.” This is pulled from a public policy statement originally written in 2004 by the American Chemical Society.

Eighteen scientific societies signed on to a similar American Association for the Advancement of Science statement affirming the consensus scientific view on climate change in 2009. According to the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, at least 200 worldwide scientific organizations now formally hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up in 1988 to assess global warming and its impacts. Recently, the panel released a major report, capping its latest assessment, a mega-review of 30,000 climate change studies that establishes with 95-percent certainty that nearly all warming seen since the 1950s is due to human activity. More than 700 of the world’s top climate scientists and 1,729 expert reviewers from more than 70 countries participated in the report process.

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Major Breakthrough on Fusion Energy Project

The magnetic coils inside the compact fusion (CF) experiment are critical to plasma containment, as pictured in this undated handout photo

The magnetic coils inside the compact fusion experiment pictured in an undated photo provided by Lockheed Martin.
Credit: Reuters/Lockheed Martin

A few days ago we talked about fusion reactors and the new development out of the University of Washington that hopes to makes fusion a reality. Now we’re talking fusion again – only on a much different scale.

Lockheed Martin is making headlines for their announcement that their compact fusion reactors could be functional within one decade.

The company has been working for some time to develop a source of infinite energy, and have been devoting much time to fusion due to its clean and safe properties.

Their work on compact fusion revolves around the idea of using a high fraction of the magnetic field pressure, or all of its potential, to make devices much smaller than previous concepts. If they can achieve this, a reactor small enough to fit on a truck could provide enough power for a small city of up to 100,000 people.

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UW Reactor Could Make Fusion a Reality

The reactor uses a tokamak design, which is a giant torus surrounded on the sides and in the core by superconducting magnets generating tremendous energy.Credit: University of Washington

The reactor uses a tokamak design, which is a giant torus surrounded on the sides and in the core by superconducting magnets generating tremendous energy.
Credit: University of Washington

Fusion energy appears to be the future of energy storage – or at least it should be. Fusion energy yields zero greenhouse gas emissions, no long-lived radioactive waste, and a nearly unlimited fuel supply.

Up until this point, there has been an economic roadblock in producing this type of energy. The designs that have been penciled out to create fusion power are too expensive and won’t feasibly outperform systems that use fossil fuels.

Now, the engineers at the University of Washington (UW) are hoping to change that. They have designed a concept for a fusion reactor, that when scaled up, would rival costs of fossil fuel plants with similar electrical outputs.

This from the University of Washington:

The design builds on existing technology and creates a magnetic field within a closed space to hold plasma in place long enough for fusion to occur, allowing the hot plasma to react and burn. The reactor itself would be largely self-sustaining, meaning it would continuously heat the plasma to maintain thermonuclear conditions. Heat generated from the reactor would heat up a coolant that is used to spin a turbine and generate electricity, similar to how a typical power reactor works.

Read the full article here.

Currently, the University of Washington’s concept is about one-tenth the size and power output of a final product, which would still be years away.

Does the future of energy interest you? Check out what our Energy Technology Division has to offer. And head over to our Digital Library to see what our scientists are researching in the field of energy storage and conversion.

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