Scientists from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University in Australia created a biochar of coffee grounds that was able to make concrete stronger by almost 30%. As Popular Mechanics reported, spent coffee grounds (SCG) are considered the most wasteful byproduct in the entire coffee industry.
“The disposal of organic waste poses an environmental challenge as it emits large amounts of greenhouse gasses including methane and carbon dioxide, which contribute to climate change,” Rajeev Roychand, lead author and professor at the RMIT School of Engineering, said in a statement.
“The inspiration for our work was to find an innovative way of using the large amounts of coffee waste in construction projects rather than going to landfills—to give coffee a ‘double shot’ at life.”
Making concrete stronger by a coffee waste product
Usually, concrete requires natural sand that is extracted from river beds and banks, negatively affecting the environment. By replacing sand with spent coffee grounds, two problems could be addressed at once.
The team sourced fresh SGC from coffee shops in Melbourne. The grounds were dried and heated to temperatures between 350 and 500 degree Celsius. After this, the coffee byproduct underwent a process called pyrolysis that removes oxygen. The end result is a product known as biochar.
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“Our research team has gained extensive experience in developing highly optimized biochars from different organic wastes, including wood biochar, food-waste biochar, agricultural waste biochar, and municipal solid-waste biochar, for concrete applications,” co-author Mohammad Saberian said in a statement.
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The biochar was mixed into Portland cement as a replacement for natural sand. They found that SCG biochar heated at 350 degree Celsius that replaced 15% of natural sand was able to help create 29.3% stronger cement in terms of compressive strength. The results from the study were published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.
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