Compost Power? Your Old Coffee Grounds Could Soon Be Used in Next-Gen Batteries

Coffee gives countless people a jolt of energy every day—and soon it could do the same for our tech.

Scientists have recently found a way to use spent coffee grounds for electrodes in lithium-sulfur batteries, the coffee-focused website Sprudge reported on Thursday. While researchers have in the past been able to turn coffee grounds into electrodes for lithium-ion batteries, these next-gen lithium-sulfur batteries have 10 times the life span. The findings come from down under, with the Australian Research Council’s Microrecycling Research Hub discovering the new use for coffee grounds.

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“The battery value chain is typically diverse and this can cause significant issues for manufacturers and end-users,” said Neeraj Sharma, a professor at the University of New South Wales and a co-author of the paper, according to Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organization. “By using waste produced at scale for battery components, industry can diversify their inputs while addressing both environmental and sustainability concerns.”

Typically, lithium-sulfur batteries loose capacity after many charges, Sprudge noted. A more porous architecture in the electrodes would help make them more efficient, given that it traps the chemicals and keeps them from escaping. Coffee grounds, helpfully, can be made into porous carbon via a process called pyrolysis, in which high temperatures heat up the grounds without the presence of oxygen. That results in different pore sizes, which the scientists think are also better at trapping chemicals.

In tests, the carbon produced by the coffee grounds made the lithium-sulfur batteries more stable and increased their performance. And given that grounds are cheap and readily available, they could be an easy solution for making next-gen batteries a highly in-demand product.

Australian researchers have been diving deep into the world of coffee lately. Earlier this month, another group from the University of New South Wales released its findings on how to make cold-brew coffee in just three minutes. (That process usually takes 24 hours or more.) And stateside, scientists last year discovered that you could make a better cup of coffee by adding a little bit of water to your beans before grinding them.

Us coffee fiends owe a big thanks to these researchers teaching us how to improve our brews—and how to use the by-products to make other items even better, too.

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