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Jonghyun Choi, graduate student in polymer chemistry, discusses with Ram Gupta, professor at chemistry, about their new invention of batteries made of coffee beans at Kansas Polymer Research Center on Monday, Aug. 5. Salehin Mahbub photo-editor

Student uses coffee waste research for green purposes

Kansas Polymer Research Center scientists have determined how to use coffee waste to make green energy devices. These scientists included South Korean exchange student Jonghyun Choi as lead researcher with help of associate professor Ram Gupta.  

Choi’s research was recently accepted in an international journal. The subject of Choi’s article is “Waste Coffee Management: Deriving High-Performance Supercapacitors using Nitrogen-Doped Coffee-Derived Carbon.” Through this, coffee waste is used to turn into nitrogen-doped activated carbon, which can be used to store energy for household appliances to automobiles. 

“Many Americans are drinking coffee, so there’s so many waste coffee grounds,” Choi said. Coffee contains a lot of carbon materials, so we used (it) to make a battery. That was my first step.” 

Choi is an exchange student from South Korea but was given the opportunity to work alongside Gupta to produce his research. Choi said in his home country it is difficult for an undergraduate student to have work accepted into an international journal. 

“It was awesome,” Choi said. I feel really happy because in Korea … it’s really hard, it’s possible but it’s really hard, but here I work hard, so Gupta gave me a chance to do a publish.” 

Gupta said Choi finished his research in one semester, as he advised Choi during the process. 

“Oh, that was awesome, simply awesome,” Gupta said. That then he come back to finish his master program. So he was undergraduate at that time, then we went back, and then he come back to finish his graduate this year.” 

Gupta agreed with Choi that that his research was a good idea, as coffee is consumed largely in America. 

“I think this was a very cool idea, we thought that most of the Americans drink lots of coffee and we just throw the used coffee powder, so we thought ‘hey, let’s use this coffee powder to make something useful.’ …” Gupta said. 

Gupta supported Choi through his research, as he thought it would make a good impact on the environment. 

“Well, you can see that these days renewable energy is one of the prime important things and also if we can develop a battery using the waste materials—it’s kind of a waste management as well as storing energy in an … environment,” Gupta said. So this material is very green, does not use any harsh chemical; so if you’re making something that is non harsh to the environment I think that is pretty cool.” 

Choi and Gupta hope that this research can benefit individuals by taking place of regular car batteries or other similar entities. 

“… We would like to see if we could replace the current car battery or something like that with our material because we think that this material can store lots of energy and it’s noncorrosive compared to the current battery used in cars. So our future would be to use this material to make bigger batteries …” 

Choi said his research is why he is at Pitt State. 

“It’s good, that’s why I’m here, to learn more,” Choi said. 


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