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Could cars run on coffee in the future?

With many of us approaching more aspects of our lives with an environmentally-friendly conscience than ever before, news relating to innovative renewable energy sources that we could feasibly use on a regular basis is extremely welcome.

Research from scientists at the University of Bath suggests that one day in the future, our cars could be running on a type of biofuel made from coffee grounds. Intrigued? So are we.

While many of us rely on a cup or two of coffee to get us through the day, we have to confess we haven't given much thought to the idea that our cars could be fuelled by it too.

However, researchers at the University of Bath's Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies clearly have, using oil from waste coffee grounds to produce their own biofuel.

Oil can be extracted from the beans if they are soaked in an organic solvent, before they are made into biodiesel using a chemical process known in the scientific world as transesterification.

The chemistry experts applied this to a variety of coffee beans, sourced from 20 countries and taking a range of forms, including Arabica, Robusta, caffeinated and decaffeinated.

Results of the investigation showed there were no significant differences between the power of the fuels produced from the varying coffee types, which has led the researchers to believe all waste coffee grounds could be used for creating biodiesel.

Dr Chris Chuck, a research fellow at the university, explained: "This oil has similar properties to current feedstocks used to make biofuels, but while those are cultivated specifically to produce fuel, spent coffee grounds are waste."

Therefore, the production of this fuel would be environmentally friendly in itself, while also helping to reduce harsh vehicle emissions into the atmosphere when in use.

Lead author of the study Rhodri Jenkins added: "We estimate that a small coffee shop would produce around ten kilograms of coffee waste per day, which could be used to produce around two litres of biofuel.

"There is also a large amount of waste produced by the coffee bean roasting industry, with defective beans being thrown away. If scaled up, we think coffee biodiesel has great potential as a sustainable fuel source."

This research conjures up a whole host of questions, such as would the pungent smell of diesel surrounding petrol station courts be replaced with the lovely aroma of coffee?

But more importantly, here at DR Wakefield, we are concerned about what using coffee as biofuel would mean for our bean growers around the world.

So, will coffee as car fuel take off? Only time will tell, but we'll stick to just drinking it for the moment.