Coffee grounds become high-tech filter to purify contaminated water

coffee grounds purify water filter foam
American Chemical Society
Anyone who drinks coffee knows the pain of dealing with coffee grounds. They taste terrible when they get in your coffee and make a huge mess when they spill. You just can’t ignore them as they need to be cleaned up before you another pot of coffee. To handle this messy job, some people throw their grounds into compost, some convert them into biodiesel, and others just throw them into their household garbage.

Expanding what we can do with coffee grounds, however, is a team of Italian researchers who have a better idea. They are collecting coffee grounds and converting them into a long-lasting filter that can remove heavy metals from water.

The latest innovation builds off earlier research which suggests coffee is an effective filter that can remove heavy metals from water. The existing coffee filtration technology utilizes spent coffee grounds that are converted to a powder-like substance and added to water. Once in solution, the coffee can bind to and remove heavy metals from water. After the water is purified, the researchers must rely on an extra filtration step to separate the residual coffee powder from the now purified water. To simplify this process, the Italian researchers developed a removable coffee-based filter that would clean the water without directly mixing the coffee into the solution.

The new coffee filter is comprised of a “bioelastomeric foam” that integrates the coffee grounds into the foam matrix. When tested with still water, the foam removed up to 99 percent of the lead and mercury from the solution after 30 hours of treatment. In a more challenging flowing-water test, the foam filter was able to remove up to 67 percent of the lead ions in the aqueous solution. The researchers also found that the ability of the foam to scrub lead and mercury from a solution was not affected by the presence of other metal ions. Best of all — when the filtration was completed, the coffee-infused foam was simply removed and thrown away.

If this process can be scaled up to an industrial level, the foam filter potentially could help offset the millions of tons of coffee waste produced each year. While a small portion of the grounds goes into fertilizer, animal feed or biodiesel production, a significant amount of the waste grounds ends up in landfills. Diverting even some of this landfill stream to clean up contaminated water looks like a win-win situation.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

The Apple iPad Air is the power-packed tablet for everyone

The iPad Air is the less serious cousin to Apple's iPad Pro range, and it's the perfect addition to your coffee table. But it's no less powerful. Here's everything you need to know about the iPad Air.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (March 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Smart Home

Cleaning up after furry family members is hard. These robot vacuums can help

Pets and carpet don't always get along. But the best robot vacuums for pet hair can help keep your house tidy even when you can't find time to clean. Check out our picks for the best, most reliable models.
Emerging Tech

Mind-bending model shows Venus isn’t our nearest neighbor — it’s Mercury

Every textbook and table on the internet agrees -- the closest planet to Earth is Venus. But a new mathematical model shows that this is wrong. In fact, the planet closest to us on average is Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.