N.D. researchers brewing energy from coffee waste

Photo by Rebecca Sudduth via Creative Commons

The holidays are over and many of us are undoubtedly counting on coffee to give us energy as we get back in the swing of things this week.

Meanwhile, North Dakota researchers are working with a Vermont coffee roaster to brew energy from its leftover materials.

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota is leading a project to develop a waste-to-energy gasification system for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

The waste stream Green Mountain is hoping to utilize includes coffee residues, paper, cloth, burlap, and plastic cups and packaging.

Chris Zygarlicke, EERC’s deputy associate director for research, said in a press release Friday that the project is an extension of the center’s recent work for NASA, which looked at ways to convert space station and lunar or Martian base waste into heat and power.

“This project will similarly utilize a mostly renewable and bio-based waste and convert it into electricity for the coffee industry,” Zygarlicke said.

The coffee project is meant to demonstrate that EERC’s gasifier system can produce a clean, synthetic gas from a complex mix of waste. It will start with a small pilot project, which will allow researchers to test the quality of the syngas and evaluate the potential for full-scale commercial systems.

The syngas will either be used in an internal combustion engine or for heat or electricity production.

EERC has previously developed and tested gasifier systems that run on forest residue, railroad tie chips, turkey litter and other biomass. The research center is working on the project with a South Burlington, Vermont, energy company called Wynntryst.

And now that we’re done with this blog post, time for another cup of coffee…

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