Talk about an exercise in efficiency. In findings presented in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a group of scientists from the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department at University of Nevada showed that castoff coffee grounds represent an ideal medium from which to extract oil that can be efficiently converted into commercial-grade biodiesel fuel.

Researchers Narasimharao Kondamudi, Susanta Mohapatra and Mano Misra used waste grounds from a local Starbucks as the baseline source for their experiments, but all coffee tailings contain about 15 percent oil by volume. Using the common transesterization process that relies on methanol and potassium hydroxide as catalyzation agents, the team was able to convert virtually all of that residual oil into a high-grade biodiesel that was stable enough to be used in industrial applications

The supporting financial ramifications were equally eye opening. Based on reprocessing these normally throw-away materials generated by caffeine-crazed American consumers would generate, Kondamudi, Mohapatra and Misra estimated that the coffee-to-biodiesel business would generate some $8 million in profits from these fertile Starbucks grounds alone. If that's not sufficient enticement to energize interest in this new renewable fuel source, the researchers also noted that any residual waste left over from the conversion process can be made into solid fuel pellets that can be burned in wood stoves or any other direct-combustion appliances.

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