Testing Biochar Made from Coffee Grounds for Increasing Plant Growth

While the main objective of this project - “Complete Utilization of Spent Coffee Grounds To Produce Biodiesel, Bio-Oil, and Biochar,” conducted by Drs. Kishore Rajagopalan, B.K. Sharma, and Wei Zheng, was to find a way to make bio-oil for energy use from spent coffee grounds, one co-product of making bio-oil via slow pyrolysis is biochar. Instead of treating biochar as a waste from this process, the scientists investigated a way to turn the biochar into a value-added product.

The options for biochar as a resource include burning as a fuel, using for carbon sequestration, or using as a soil amendment. The researchers examined soil productivity with fertilizer only and with the addition of coffee-ground biochar and fertilizer. Their results sorghum-sundangrass in the study had a 2-fold dry-weight biomass gain when soil was enhanced with the biochar and fertilizer treatment.

pot with soil and biochar in a green house; giant cane is growing in the pot

This research was funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship Program; the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois; the University of Illinois Research Board; and the National Science Foundation Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET-0746453).