The South West College Renewable Engine Programme has been involved in an international collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast and Sultan Oaboos University in Oman to convert leftover grain from breweries into carbon, which could be used as a renewable fuel for homes in winter, charcoal for summer barbecues or water filters in developing countries. The project was funded by EPSRC and The Bryden Centre at Queen’s.
Breweries in the EU throw out around 3.4 million tons of unspent grain every year, weighing the equivalent of 500,000 elephants. Using just 1kg of the grain, Dr Ahmed Osman from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Queen's has been able to create enough activated carbon to spread across 100 football pitches.
The results have been published in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology. Dr Osman explains:
“Liquid forms of carbon are normally shipped to the UK from the Middle East, and solid biocarbon, in the form of wood pellets is shipped from the US and elsewhere. Using this new technique, we can utilise more locally produced resources, reduce emissions linked with the agriculture sector, and we are also creating a high-value product.
“Across the globe there is a real demand for carbon as it is used to create fuel for households, parts for water filters and charcoal for barbecues. If we are able to take something that would otherwise be a waste and turn it into a useful biofuel, it can only be a good thing for our planet. It could really help to solve global waste and energy problems.”
South West College students and staff contributed in the analysis of laboratory results and the writing of the research article alongside Dr Osman and contributors from Queen’s University Belfast.
South West College researcher, Mr Charlie Farrell said:
“We have demonstrated the potential of taking a waste product that is abundantly available here in Northern Ireland and by harnessing circular economy principles, we have created value-added products that are in high demand worldwide. Carbon nanotubes and activated carbon possess material properties that have wide-scale uses in many industries such as semiconductors, composites, energy storage and wastewater treatment.”
Dr John Harrison Co-ordinator for the Renewable Engine Programme at South West College further added: “This work is a prime example of how collaborative research between industry and academia can promote innovation here in Northern Ireland and make the best use of our natural resources.”
For further information please email John Harrison, Co-ordinator, Renewable Engine Programme (SWC) or call 028 8225 5223