A fuel is a material that, due to its properties, burns easily. The concept usually refers to the substance that, by oxidizing when ignited, gives off heat and releases energy that can be used.
Fuels, in this way, generate mechanical energy or thermal energy. The gasoline (also known as naphtha), the diesel or gas oil, the natural gas, the wood and coal are among the most widely used fuel worldwide.
All fuels have a certain calorific value: the amount of energy (heat) that they release per unit of volume or mass when the oxidation reaction occurs. This reaction begins at the moment the fuel reaches its ignition temperature.
The fossil fuels derived from biomass which dates back several million years ago. The oil, the coal and natural gas are examples of this type of fuels that are not renewable (once exhausted, disappear because they can not be generated at the same rate of consumption).
It is important to bear in mind that, when they oxidize and release energy, fuels leave different residues. Among them is carbon dioxide, a polluting substance that contributes to the greenhouse effect.
Most cars, for example, need gasoline (naphtha) to run. This fuel consists of a combination of hydrocarbons that come from oil. When burning gasoline is in the combustion chamber of the engine, the chemical energy of fuel is converted into the mechanical energy that allows movement of the vehicle.
Bio Bean and coffee as fuel
Since the end of 2017, a young British company called Bio Bean began converting large quantities of coffee grounds waste into biofuel capable of supplying the almost 10,000 buses in the city of London. It is worth mentioning that London’s bus network is among the busiest on the planet, making the achievement even more impressive and, why not, beneficial to the economy in general.
Approximately 200,000 tonnes of ground coffee waste is disposed of in the UK every year, which after decomposing in landfills generates a considerable emission of methane gas that is almost 30 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
Arthur Day, founder of Bio Bean, relied on the high calorie content of ground coffee to conduct research on its potential as a fuel for both private and industrial use cars. After having received permission from the authorities, the company embarked on the production of six thousand liters of coffee oil.
Bio Bean was supported from the start by many factories and coffee shops across the UK, and this tipped the balance in favor of the project in a decisive way. Coffee oil must be mixed with certain fats to give a 20% biocomponent to which mineral diesel must then be added to obtain the B20 biofuel.
Undoubtedly, 2017 marked a milestone in the history of the fight against environmental pollution, since thanks to this revolutionary fuel, carbon dioxide emissions began to be reduced to significant levels. Two of the companies that collaborated with Bio Bean are Argent Energy and Shell.
Before this endeavor, others had taken place with similar purposes, which were also tested on the nearly 10,000 vehicles on the London bus network; for example, fuels made from meat waste and oil. In the words of Arthur Kay, this project “is a good example of what we can achieve when we begin to see waste as unexplored resources.”