Alternative Fuel, Construction Material From a Thermos?

Alternative Fuel, Construction Material From a Thermos?

When the average person has too much coffee, the drinker tends to get jittery. When the coffee market has too much coffee, researchers get clear-headed, looking for alternative uses for the bean.

"There are researchers in Japan working on all kinds of alternative uses for coffee, even wall and roofing panels for houses if you can believe it," said Luis Zamora, the technician leading coffee investigation at Costa Rica's Coffee Institute (Icafe) in a Reuters report.

With global production and coffee inventories going ever higher, the price of coffee -- the world's most-traded commodity after crude oil -- has dropped to eight-year lows in the past two years.

The crisis has shaken the production chain, sending formerly prosperous growers into bankruptcy as the costs of production exceed the prices fetched by the beans.

In an effort to reverse the price slump, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Colombia agreed in March to put 5% of their lowest-grade coffee exports to uses other than consumption. If the plan works, these countries could help buoy the beans’ rock-bottom prices.

Putting Coffee to Work

In Colombia, scientists at the National University are studying the possibility of using the skins from coffee cherries as components in construction materials and organic fertilizer.

In Costa Rica, government researchers are eyeing coffee as an alternate fuel source for industry, particularly in the areas of cement and glassmaking. Independent scientists there are working on uses for coffee in construction materials.Icafe's Zamora told Reuters coffee-burning experiments show the beans burn hotter and have a higher calorific value than wood and a host of other traditional fuels used in industry.

"We have conducted laboratory testing to see how much energy coffee cherries produce when they are burned and so far so good," said Zamora. He said that testing would soon begin at the industrial level and could use the burning of about 50 tons of coffee per day in ovens at cement factories.

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