Acording to a study made in 2008, people produce and consume several million tonnes of tea annually (more than 3.8 tons of black tea). Considering the large amounts of tea consumed worldwide, Pakistani scientists have begun to think seriously about converting waste tea leaves into biofuels. They found a way to produce biodiesel from used tea leaves, using a nanocatalyst that is able to accelerate chemical reactions.
To convert tea leaves into biodiesel, Researchers from the Nanoscience and Catalysis Division at Quaid-i-Azam University had to follow a process called gasification. They heated a mixture of tea leaves with a Cobalt nanocatalyst at 300 Celsius degrees.
After completing this process, the liquid extract went through a second process that resulted in 40% ethyl ester, 28% hydrocarbon gas and 12% charcoal. Despite the fact that tea leaves are converted into biofuel in a high percentage (methanol, ethane and methane can be also used as a fuels), Kausar Malik, head of the Biotechnology Department at Forman Christian College in Lahore questioned the efficiency of this process. He said that converting plants as Camellia sinensis or Aspergillus niger into biofuels could cost more than the cost of the energy produced by this biofuel. “If we do a mass balance of input and output, we find is it not an economical option to be employed at industrial level,” said Kausar Malik.