Fueled by chocolate: Ghana’s newest biofuel

April 26, 2019 by  
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Researchers in Ghana are testing a system that will turn cocoa into biofuel  — but don’t worry — it uses the green waste produced during harvest, so you can still eat all of the chocolate! The project is funded by the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and will be tested in Ghana, one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa. Chocolate is a multi-billion-dollar international industry, with the bulk of cocoa coming from Africa. “Every ton of cocoa beans harvested generates 10 tons of cocoa pod husks,” says Jo Darkwa , professor of energy storage technologies at Nottingham and one of the project team leads. Husks are typically discarded during harvest after the beans are extracted. Usually, the husks are left to decompose on the cocoa plantation while the beans head to fermentation and drying facilities before they are turned into chocolate. Now, researchers have developed a system that will use the husks as feedstock to generate biofuel. The husks are processed into pellets, or bricks, that can burn in generators and produce “green” electricity. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa “Feasibility studies indicate that cocoa pod husks could be converted into valuable biofuels and become an important energy supply for rural areas that only have 15 percent coverage at present,” explained Professor Darkwa. The many benefits of cocoa fuel This initiative is not only an innovate green technology, it also has other secondary benefits: Increase access to electricity If successful, the project could contribute to the Ghanaian government’s pledge to ensure 100 percent of Ghanaians have access to electricity by 2030. Reduce deforestation and improve climate and human health Currently, 80 percent of households in Ghana use wood as their main source of fuel for cooking and heating water. This practice not only leads to widespread deforestation in order to harvest wood, but indoor air pollution from wooden stoves is one of the top four leading risk factors for death worldwide. Create jobs If successful, the biofuel system would need workers to collect, transport , treat and process cocoa pod husks, which would create additional jobs and provide income for rural communities. Cocoa as chocolate, cocoa as compost Since it is the beans that are used to make chocolate, the husks are simply bio-waste, and therefore the biofuel system would not take away from farmers ’ profits in any way— in fact it would augment the profitability of the entire cocoa pod. However, cocoa pod waste is an important source of nutrients for cocoa trees. During harvest, ripe cocoa pods are collected and piled throughout the plantation. When the farmers are ready to extract the beans, the pods are cracked open and usually left in a heap to decompose. When husks biodegrade, they are an incredibly rich source of nutrients that help trees grow, improve soil quality and reduce plant disease. Studies show that the decaying pods host beneficial fungi and microbiotics, so will farmers and their crops be losing out on natural fertilizer if they ship their husks off to biofuel systems? Farmers with the capacity to do so might collect and bring the husks to an on-site composting location, but most small farmers do not have the capacity to process or evenly distribute the nutrients from the pile of decomposing husks and rely on nature to take its course. Farmers who do maximize the use of the compost may prefer to continue to do so, however those without that ability now have the option to profit from electricity generation instead. Testing the system in Ghana and the world “Undoubtedly, provision of sustainable energy services through cocoa pod husks would go a long way towards improving the quality of lives and thus alleviate poverty in rural communities as well as fight against climate change,” Professor Darkwa told Climate News Network . The project team is expected to test a prototype of their system at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in July 2019. The plan is to design, build and operate a small-scale bio-power electricity generation unit that burns husks in a gasification system. Each system includes a gasifier, small generator, solar drier and pelletizer and costs approximately US $50,000. If the prototype is successful, the system could be replicated in other countries following additional feasibility studies. Via Climate News Network Images via Flickr ,  dghchocolatier

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Green school in Bali shows students how to live sustainably

March 7, 2019 by  
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The goals of the Green School are anything but small, yet they are simple: take care of the local community and teach children to be stewards of our planet and leaders of sustainability in the future. The baby of John and Cynthia Hardy, the Green School was inspired after the retired couple viewed the Al Gore film The Inconvenient Truth . With four children of their own, the couple decided to make a difference and, in 2006, broke ground on a new type of school — an educational campus focused on using a holistic teaching approach and a natural canvas as classrooms. Related: Modscape installs a prefab school building that stays comfortable year-round The Green School is located on 20 acres in south central Bali, where the Hardys lived and ran a jewelry store for decades. Using local architects and materials, mainly bamboo , they spent two years constructing an open-air campus, which now houses several hundred students and teachers. In fact, the local area is becoming a community with families building green homes nearby, so their children can walk to school. Those that don’t walk board a bio-bus, fueled by oils collected at the community level and processed into biofuel locally. In addition to eliminating a reliance on fossil fuels and reducing the carbon footprint, the process of making biofuel produces glycerine as a natural by-product that is then turned into soaps to use on campus. This earth-friendly alternative to traditional palm oil-based soaps reduces the chemicals that would otherwise end up in the water system. Electricity to the school comes from solar panels and a water vortex system, which diverts water from the river that flows through campus and turns it into energy. Waste is an issue at any school, and the designers of the Green School have taken special consideration to create a closed circuit. The composting toilets produce waste that can be amended back into the adjacent soil, feeding the bamboo that grows rampant on the campus. Local Balinese woman use wood-fired stoves instead of gas and traditional cooking techniques to minimize resource usage. Food waste from feeding over 400 people each day is either fed to the school’s pigs or added to the on-site composting pile. Speaking of food, most of the meals provided are grown on campus, giving the students a full understanding of how to plant, nurture, maintain and cook vegetables and rice. The students also help raise the pigs, cows and even the buffalo that roam the campus, enclosed only by organic , natural fencing made from branches and leaves. Mostly tapioca root, the students recognize the fencing is edible for grazing animals as well as themselves. The eco-friendly design continues all the way down to where the footprints go by eliminating any pavement and the petroleum-based chemicals that come with it. Instead, all pathways are paved with hand-laid volcanic rocks. Drinking water comes from a nearby well after traveling through a reverse osmosis system to filter it. Water is used other ways on campus, too, with an aquaponics system that combines aquaculture (raising fish) with hydroponics (raising crops with little to no soil). These systems work in conjunction with each other, so the fish waste feeds the plants while the plants provide much-needed water filtration for the fish. While the goal to be sustainable and local may seem simplistic, the objective of teaching the next generation how to work with students from 25 other countries to solve problems on campus and eventually in the world means the potential for a better future for the entire planet — and that’s no small feat. + Green School Images via Green School Bali

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Green school in Bali shows students how to live sustainably

Dunkin’ Donuts unveils a tiny home powered by recycled coffee grounds

October 11, 2018 by  
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Now this is one sweet tiny home! Dunkin’ Donuts has long claimed that ¨America Runs on Dunkin’,” but now, the company has created a gorgeous tiny home that is truly fueled with coffee. Recently unveiled at NYC’s Madison Square Park, the 275-square-foot “ Home That Runs on Dunkin’ ” is powered entirely by an eco-friendly biofuel created out of recycled coffee grounds. The tiny home project was a collaboration between Dunkin’ Donuts and builder  New Frontier Tiny Home . The custom-made home was built on a trailer with wheels for easy transport. The design was inspired by the doughnut company’s dark, rich coffee and bright orange and pink logo. Related: This beautiful tiny home doubles as a tasty doughnut shop The house is clad in dark, black-stained cedar, inspired by the color of a cup of coffee. On the corners of the home, weathered steel panels add an industrial touch. Although compact, the interior of the tiny home is warm and cozy — just like a cup of Joe. There is a master bedroom with a king-sized bed, a spa-like bathroom, a chef’s kitchen with high-end appliances and an elevated dining area with an extra-large window that brings in natural light. From the living room, a garage door wall opens up to an open-air cedar porch. The interior design, spearheaded by actress Olivia Wilde, is fresh and modern. Reclaimed wood siding and shiplap add a warm touch to the living space. The home’s furnishings, many of which were also made out of reclaimed materials, are multifunctional to add space. Throughout the house, the company’s iconic pink and orange logo colors can be found. Of course, the most spectacular aspect to the beautiful tiny home is its clean energy , which is produced out of recycled coffee grounds. Developed by Blue Marble Biomaterials , a sustainable biochemical company, the home runs on biofuel converted out of approximately 65,000 pounds of used coffee grounds. To create the biofuel, excess oils in the coffee grounds are extracted and then mixed with alcohol to undergo a chemical reaction known as transesterification. This process produces a biodiesel that burns efficiently. Once the biodiesel is washed and refined, it is ready to be used as fuel through the use of a standard biofuel generator. According to the project description, 170 pounds of recycled coffee grounds produce about one gallon of fuel. The Dunkin’ Donuts tiny home is an excellent example of how to reuse waste , and it also shows the importance of creating a sustainable energy system for homes of the future. Your morning cup of coffee now powers you and your home! + Dunkin’ at Home Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Cindy Ord / Getty Images for Dunkin’ Donuts

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Scientists reveal new technique to make biofuel from mushroom waste

April 10, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the National University of Singapore have discovered a revolutionary way to transform mushroom waste into biofuel. Despite claims to the contrary, biofuel — typically derived from food crops — is often more environmentally-destructive than it is helpful. This new technique could change that by harvesting energy from waste produced in the process of mushroom cultivation. In a study published in Science Advances , researchers explain how Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum (TG57), a common bacterial byproduct of mushroom cultivation, can be isolated and used to convert plant-based cellulose into biobutanol. Biobutanol is a biofuel that can be used by vehicles designed to run on gasoline. First identified in 2015, the TG57 bacterium strain has been cultivated in various forms to analyze its ability to produce biofuel in a more sustainable manner. “The production of biofuels using non-food feedstocks can improve sustainability and reduce costs greatly,” researcher He Jianzhong told Silicon Republic . “In our study, we demonstrated a novel method of directly converting cellulose to biobutanol using the novel TG57 strain. This is a major breakthrough in metabolic engineering and exhibits a foundational milestone in sustainable and cost-effective production of renewable biofuels and chemicals.” Related: Paris has a new underground – a massive farm for mushrooms and veggies Creating biofuel from waste products is a potential boon for the industry and the environment. Biobutanol holds the most promise because of its energy density, and it can be used directly, without modification, in vehicles designed to run on gasoline. Prior to the study, the high environmental and financial costs of producing biobutanol blocked it from mainstream use. However, the researchers have revealed a widely applicable, straightforward technique that does not require any significant genetic alterations of the bacterium. Someday soon, you may munch on mushrooms with the satisfaction of contributing to greener transportation and a healthier planet. Via Silicon Republic Images via Depositphotos (1)

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World’s most powerful wind turbine installed off the coast of Scotland

April 10, 2018 by  
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The world’s most powerful wind turbine was just installed off the coast of Scotland. Developer Vattenfall announced this week it completed the installation of 11 turbines in Aberdeen Bay – two of which were upgraded with a record-setting capacity of 8.8 MW. In total, the installation generates 93.2 MW of energy – enough to power 70-percent of Aberdeen’s domestic needs. Vattenfall said that nine 8.4 MW turbines were installed off the coast, and two other turbines with an enhanced capacity of 8.8 MW were also put in place. These turbines are the most powerful in the world – and a major milestone for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC). The company also announced that a few weeks ago it installed the industry’s first suction bucket jacket foundations, which will help make off-shore wind power installations more affordable. ? Related: The world’s first subsidy-free offshore wind farm is being built in the Netherlands All told, 134,128 tons of coal will be displaced by the installation. “The turbines for the EOWDC, Scotland’s largest offshore wind test and demonstration facility, help secure Vattenfall’s vision to be fossil fuel free within one generation,” said Gunnar Groebler, Vattenfall’s Head of Business Area Wind. + Vattenfall Via Business Green Images via Vattenfall

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World’s first biofuel flight between the US and Australia powered by mustard seeds

January 31, 2018 by  
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The world’s first biofuel flight between the United States and Australia landed in Melbourne after a 15-hour trip. The Guardian reported the blended fuel was 10 percent derived from brassica carinat, which Qantas describes as a “non-food, industrial type of mustard seed.” They said the use of blended biofuel in the flight would save about 18,000 kilograms, or around 39,683 pounds, of carbon emissions . A Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 soared between Los Angeles and Melbourne in the trans-Pacific biofuel flight. The trip saw carbon emissions reduced by seven percent compared against Qantas’ usual flight over the route. Per the airline, “Across its lifecycle, using carinata-derived biofuel can reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent compared to traditional jet fuel .” Related: Watch a Boeing 737 and a Tesla Model S battle it out Brassica carinata works as a fallow crop , meaning it can be cultivated between regular crop cycles, per The Guardian. Qantas said the crop can be sown in fallow areas, and is water efficient. Steve Fabijanski, CEO of Agrisoma , the agricultural-technology company behind the crop, said in a statement, “Biojet fuel made from carinata delivers both oil for biofuel and protein for animal nutrition while also enhancing the soil it’s grown in.” The crushed seeds can produce a high-protein meal for livestock, poultry, and dairy markets, according to Qantas. One hectare of the seed yields 2,000 liters, around 528 gallons, of oil, according to Qantas. That can produce 400 liters, or around 106 gallons, of biofuel, and 1,400 liters, around 370 gallons, of what the airline described as renewable diesel. University of Sydney agriculture expert Daniel Tan told The Guardian farmers can use mustard seeds as a source of sustainable fuel , saying, “Almost within a day after harvesting, they can press the oil out in their own shed and use it straight into their tractors.” Field trials have shown the crop should do well in Australia’s climate. + Qantas Via The Guardian Images via Qantas ( 1 , 2 )

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World’s first biofuel flight between the US and Australia powered by mustard seeds

London buses swap out diesel for a coffee-based biofuel

November 22, 2017 by  
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Brits may prefer tea, but their busses will be getting a buzz from coffee. U.K. startup bio-bean , Shell, and Argent Energy have teamed up to fill London’s double-deckers with an innovative new java-based fuel. According to CNN , bio-bean has already brewed up 6,000 liters (1,585 gallons) of the high-octane joe, an amount able to power one city bus for an entire year. So, how is the coffee oil manufactured? As bio-bean shares on its site, the company gathers grounds everywhere from small cafes to Starbucks-like chains to universities and even instant coffee factories. The grounds are then brought to the bio-bean plant where they are dried and coffee oil is extracted. Related: Could coffee help fight cancer? The extracted oil is then blended with other fats and oils to create a “B20” biofuel, which is further mixed with traditional mineral diesel. The new concoction offers a 10-15 percent reduction in CO2 emissions as compared to pure diesel, and prevents the release of any methane that would have occurred had the grounds been sent to a landfill. Notably, the mix does not require a specialized engine and can be used with any diesel bus, making the switch easy. Bio-bean estimates that Britain produces nearly 500,000 tonnes of coffee grounds a year—enough to power a third of London’s entire transport network. At the moment, bio-bean’s plant has the capacity to recycle 50,000 tonnes of grounds a year. Company founder Arthur Kay, however, hopes to scale the project. Kay, in fact, has his sights set on the U.S. where coffee consumption is the highest of anywhere on the planet with 400 million cups downed daily. + bio-bean Via CNN Images via Pixbay and bio-bean

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Bicycle highway in the Netherlands built using recycled toilet paper

October 3, 2017 by  
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People in the Netherlands use an estimated 180,000 tons of toilet paper every year. Because this amounts to a lot of trees, last Fall the Dutch province of Friesland repurposed the product to make a bicycle highway . The stretch of roadway, about 0.6-miles-long, connects the Frisian capital of Leeuwarden to the town of Stiens. It is the first bicycle lane in the world to be paved with toilet paper — but few can tell the difference. In the Netherlands , roads are typically paved with blacktop. Specifically, open-graded asphalt friction course (OGFC) is used because it is porous and water permeable. “When roads get wet, [they get] slippery, so we use this asphalt because it takes water away from the road surface quicker,” said Ernst Worrell, Professor of energy, resources, and technological change at Utrecht University. The country sees an annual rainfall of 27 to 35 inches per year, so this safety measure is important. While the method is effective, it isn’t the only way to build safe asphalt-type roads, as the province of Friesland recently proved. Last fall, a bicycle highway was built using tertiary cellulose extracted from waste streams. CirTec and KNN Cellulose developed the technology for extracting and cleaning the cellulose fibers. The process entailed sifting paper fibers out of wastewater with a 0.35-millimeter industrial sieve. The fibers were then run through a series of machines, which cleaned, sterilized, bleached and dried them. This produced a fluffy, grayish material. According to Chris Reijken, wastewater treatment advisor at Waternet, “If you look at it, you would not expect it to have originated from wastewater.” Technically, the uses for the reclaimed cellulose are endless. The product could be used in building insulation, biofuel , textiles, pulp and paper, filters — and more. But due to sanitization concerns, it cannot legally be used in products that come into direct contact with people. Related: London Unveils $1.51 Billion Bicycle Master Plan With 15-Mile Bike Highway As a result, the recycled toilet paper was used to construct a bike highway. And so far, officials are reportedly pleased with the investment said to have held up well so far. The success of the project resulted in the same mixture being used to reinforce a dyke on the West Frisian Island of Ameland and to repave a parking lot of a children’s petting zoo in Groningen. CityLab says the city of Amsterdam is now interested in using cellulose from wastewater in its roadways. “It’s a strange idea for people that there’s [toilet paper] in the road,” says Michiel Schrier, provincial governor of Friesland. “But when they cycle on it or feel it, they can see that it’s normal asphalt.” It’s still too early to say whether products from recycled toilet paper will become mainstream, but, in the Netherlands, at least, they’re off to a good start. To repair all roadways in the Netherlands, 15,000 tons of fiber would be needed. From toilet paper alone, this wouldn’t be possible. But using tertiary cellulose from other waste sources, such as diapers and beverage cartons, two million tons could be created. Greener roads are just around the bend. Via CityLab Images via Pixabay , KNN Cellulose

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Bicycle highway in the Netherlands built using recycled toilet paper

Breakthrough algae strain produces twice as much biofuel

June 23, 2017 by  
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Scientists have been working since the 1970’s to transform algae into biofuel . Now a new breakthrough could make this alternative energy source a more viable option. Researchers from Synthetic Genomics, Inc. and ExxonMobil were able to edit algae genes to produce two times more lipids. Those lipids can be turned into biofuel that isn’t too different from the diesel we use today. Researchers figured out how to tune a genetic switch to regulate the conversion of carbon to oil in the alga Nannochloropsis gaditana . They used multiple editing techniques including CRISPR-Cas9. They were able to boost the algae’s oil content from 20 percent to over 40 percent – and importantly, did so without stunting the algae’s growth rate. The modified algae can produce as much as five grams of lipid per meter per day. Related: New biofuel from wastewater slashes vehicle CO2 emissions by 80% Vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company Vijay Swarup said the milestone confirms their belief algae can offer a source of renewable energy . Synthetic Genomics CEO Oliver Fetzer said carbon dioxide and sunlight are two major components necessary for algae production, and both are plentiful and free. According to ScienceAlert, a past report indicated biofuels from algae could become a $50 billion industry , with the potential to offer transport fuel and food security. But we still could be years away from pumping this particular algae-based biofuel into our cars at gas stations. Researcher Imad Ajjawi of Synthetic Genomics told ScienceAlert this step was just a proof of concept, but did describe it as a significant milestone. According to Greentech Media , organizations have been working on making biofuel from algae for years, without much progress towards commercialization. In fact, they cited former ExxonMobil CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson , who back in 2009 said the work on turning algae into biofuels might not come up with real results for 25 years. The journal Nature Biotechnology published a study on the concept online this month. Via ScienceAlert and Synthetic Genomics Images via ExxonMobil and Wikimedia Commons

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New biofuel from wastewater slashes vehicle CO2 emissions by 80%

March 20, 2017 by  
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An innovative new project called LIFE+ Methamorphosis is pioneering a new sustainable biofuel for cars . Car company SEAT and water management company Aqualia have transformed wastewater into the alternative fuel . Powered with this biofuel produced during one year at a treatment plant in Spain, a vehicle could circumnavigate the globe 100 times. SEAT and Aqualia came up with a creative answer to the issues of pollution from traditional car fuels – which have led to traffic restrictions in cities like Madrid – and reusing water , a scarce resource. To make their biomethane , wastewater is separated from sludge in treatment plants, and then becomes gas after a fermentation treatment. Following a purification and enrichment process, the biogas can be utilized as fuel. Compared against petrol, production and consumption of the biofuel releases 80 percent less carbon dioxide, according to SEAT . The new biofuel works in compressed natural gas (CNG)-fueled cars. Related: Africa’s newest sustainable biofuel grows on trees The project aims to show feasibility at industrial scales through two waste treatment systems. The UMBRELLA prototype will be set up in a municipal waste treatment plant serving Barcelona. The METHARGO prototype will create biomethane at a plant handling animal manure. The biogas made with the second prototype can be utilized directly in cars or could be added to the natural gas distribution network, according to the project’s website . A mid-sized treatment plant can handle around 353,000 cubic feet of wastewater every day, which could yield 35,000 cubic feet of biomethane, according to companies involved with the project. All that biomethane could power 150 vehicles driving around 62 miles a day. SEAT will supply vehicles to test the biofuel over around 74,500 miles. The European Commission is funding the project. Other companies participating include Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas , Gas Natural , the Catalan Institute for Energy , and the Barcelona Metropolitan Area . Via New Atlas Images via SEAT and LIFE+ Methamorphosis

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New biofuel from wastewater slashes vehicle CO2 emissions by 80%

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