Saturday, September 28, 2013

University of Cincinnati explores energy from waste

In this installment of sustainability-related research news from campuses on the campaign trail, I present two stories from the University of Cincinnati I originally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (IgNobel Prizes) about their students' efforts to produce renewable energy from waste.

UC Business and Engineering Students Win First Place in National Sustainability Competition
By: Judy Ashton
Date: 9/11/2013 12:00:00 AM
A group of students from UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) took first place to earn the 2013 Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development.

Ronald Gillespie, BSIM ’14; Ethan Jacobs, CEAS ‘13, MBA ’14; and Qingshi Tu, CEAS ’15; presented their Bearcat Clean Energy startup business idea called Effuelent in Miami on Sept. 9 to win $40,000, topping teams from University of California Berkeley and Florida International University to win.

Effuelent, a Waste to Energy company, extracts fat, oil and grease from wastewater to produce a low-cost biodiesel feedstock. Currently those substances are regarded as waste and end up in landfills. Through technology developed by UC CEAS professor Mingming Lu, Effuelent uses a waste grease extraction process produce a low-cost alternative (soy, rapeseed and corn oils) to expensive agricultural based biodiesel feedstock.
Researchers Read the Coffee Grounds and Find a Promising Energy Resource For the Future
What’s usually considered old garbage might be a promising asset for our energy supply, according to University of Cincinnati researchers.
By: Dawn Fuller
Date: 9/9/2013 11:30:00 AM
For many of us, it’s the fuel that wakes us up and gets us started on our day. Now, University of Cincinnati researchers are discovering that an ingredient in our old coffee grounds might someday serve as a cheaper, cleaner fuel for our cars, furnaces and other energy sources.

Yang Liu, a graduate student in environmental engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), presents a summary of early-but-promising discoveries on his team’s research at the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) 246th National Meeting & Exposition this week in Indianapolis.
The researchers launched the project in 2010, gathering waste coffee grounds in a five-gallon bucket from a Starbucks store on UC’s campus. After collection, they removed the oil from the waste coffee grounds and converted triglycerides (oil) into biodiesel and the byproduct, glycerin. The coffee grounds were then dried and used to purify the biodiesel they derived from the waste coffee grounds.
I teach Barry Commoner's Laws of Ecology to my students every semester.  Two of them are there is no away and nature knows best.  Both of those laws share the idea that there is no waste in nature.  All matter cycles in ecosystems and one organism's leftovers are another organism's food.  Therefore, a nature knows best solution to our energy issues would include extracting energy from our refuse, just like both of these projects.  Also, both recycle what is considered low-quality matter and convert it into high-quality matter that can be turned into high-quality energy.  That's exactly what a low-throughput economy requires.  Here's to both of these ideas scaling up to commercially successful levels.

No comments:

Post a Comment