Turning Food Waste Into Graphene at the City of Hong Kong University

Scientists at the City of Hong Kong University are trialling out new techniques for converting food waste into graphene and hydrogen. The research team has discovered that they can turn coffee grounds and stale bakery goods into a sugary solution that can be used to manufacture plastic.

A mixture of bacteria and the food waste can be fermented to produce succinic acid, a substance comprised from petrochemicals, which are found in a range of fibres, fabrics an plastics.

The potential for different food waste streams to be treated and converted is diverse. Blended cocoa beans, rice, fruit skins, leeks and asparagus are just some examples of wasted foodstuffs that are being used as part of new material creation.

Engineers at the Colorado School of Mines have released research where they can turn banana peels, eggshells and rice husks into glass. It has been suggested that that innovation could reduce the need for mining silica (a primary component of glass).

The latest innovative project is the EU-based PlasCarb, which is researching a way to make graphene out of food waste. The project takes the commonly used, biogas creating anaerobic digestion (AD) process one step further by using a low-energy plasma reactor to convert the biogas to graphitic carbon. It also produces renewable hydrogen.

PlasCarb can provide a commercial use for food waste  Growing materials from waste streams could also reduce concerns over how corn-based biopolymers may impact on crop prices, land availability and food shortages.

The project plans a pilot trial is intended to be carried out over the course of the next year.

Discover more about this story on the Guardian.


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Seb Egerton-Read

Seb Egerton-Read

Seb writes daily content for Circulate across the full spectrum of the website's topics. Previously he has spent five years as a freelance writer for a number of websites and blogs. You can e-mail Seb at seb[at]

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