A Queen’s University Belfast researcher has developed a low cost technique to convert left over barley malt from breweries into carbon, which could be used as a renewable biofuel.

The carbon could then be used for heating homes in winter, charcoal for summer barbecues or water filters in developing countries.

Researcher Dr Ahmed Osman said: “There are only a few steps in our low cost and novel approach – drying the grain out and a two-stage chemical and heat treatment using phosphoric acid and then a potassium hydroxide wash, both of which are very low cost chemical solutions.

“This then leaves us with activated carbon and carbon nanotubes – high value materials which are very much in demand.

“Liquid forms of carbon are normally shipped to the UK from the Middle East, and solid biocarbon, in the form of wood pellets is shipped from the US and elsewhere.

“Using this new technique, we can utilise more locally produced resources, reduce emissions linked with the agriculture sector, and we are also creating a high-value product.

“Across the globe there is a real demand for carbon as it is used to create fuel for households, parts for water filters and charcoal for barbecues.

“If we are able to take something that would otherwise be a waste and turn it into a useful biofuel, it can only be a good thing for our planet. It could really help to solve global waste and energy problems.”

Currently, most spent grains are sold to farmers as an animal feed.

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