• Germany's news in English

New technology turns leaves to coal in hours

The Local · 6 Jan 2013, 14:01

Published: 06 Jan 2013 14:01 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

German scientists have developed what could prove to be a revolutionary green technology to help solve the energy supply problem.

Garden waste such as grass, leaves or plant clippings, is placed in a kind of pressure cooker which can transform it into a form of coal, wrote the magazine, completing in a matter of hours a process which takes millions of years in nature.

"The bio-coal has almost the same characteristics as brown coal, with the difference that it's C02 neutral," Friedrich von Ploetz, head of the Suncoal company based outside Berlin, one of three bio-coal plants now operating in the country.

The best part about the new technology, wrote the magazine, is that unlike in the production of conventional biogas any organic matter - including food waste - can be 'carbonized' and transformed into fuel.

The breakthrough could mean an extra four million tons of fuel could be generated every year in Germany alone, according to the state-affiliated Johann-Heinrich-von-Thünen-Institute, enough to provide electricity for 2.5 million households.

Story continues below…

The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

17:41 January 6, 2013 by Englishted
What do they use to create the pressure ?,and aren't coal fired power stations bad polluters ?.

Forgive me if I'm wrong it is along time since I studied but increasing the pressure would result in oil and gas would it not ?.

I have given more questions than answers sorry.
17:53 January 6, 2013 by Loth
CO2 neutral? Oh no, the carbon people will be unhappy with the loss of carbon taxes. Can this coal be made into gasoline too?
18:11 January 6, 2013 by raandy
WOW what a scientific marvel.
18:16 January 6, 2013 by pepsionice
A good environmentalist would demand an immediate halt to this research and abandon any technology like this. Imagine Germans taking truckloads of leaves each fall to a local facility....getting paid nothing for twenty bags of leaves from their yard, and a year later.....it's all pumped back into society as coal. Yep, that's a bad thing.
18:19 January 6, 2013 by MattyB
Encouraging news, but I must ask; how many traditional coal fired plants will it take to produce this new CO2 neutral artificial "coal?"

So many green energy fanatics tend to forget that many of their so-called "solutions" are neither solutions, nor green.
18:45 January 6, 2013 by raandy
They are leaves, "matter can neither be created nor destroyed" , or you get what you put in , no more, all this basically amounts to is pressure treated leaves so that you combine a large amount of leaves into a pellet which is most likely equal to a wood pellet, hey why not? but come one its not a panacea.
20:19 January 6, 2013 by redfish
The article is a bit confusing, as is the original one in Der Spiegel.

How is SunCoal's pellets different from biochar, something that people have known how to produce for 2,000 years (and charcoal, not true coal)? Is it more compact? Is it more efficiently produced?
11:19 January 7, 2013 by yllusion
What is the meaning of "CO2 neutral"? Before complaining like a "green radical" we have to remember that every new technology for energy generation has to be looked at, because we are depleting petroleum reserves and getting rid of nuclear energy. We have to get energy from somewhere else, and we won't be able in this century to produce energy without producing residuals. This will take time. What has to improve is how we deal with residuals, instead of simply releasing them to the environment.
12:26 January 7, 2013 by auniquecorn
What do they use to create the pressure?

A diesel engine hooked up to a 100 ton hydraulic press.
20:57 January 7, 2013 by JDee
let them eat cake

you can pelletise leaves and use them to run a heater or wood gasifier that generates electricity or drives a diesel motor, but the potential plus here would be if the trade-off between the energy taken to create the artifical coal results in a higher energy density to weight ratio that results in a marginal benefit for transportation costs, i.e. the energy used to create the artifical coal is less then the additional energy that would have been required to transport the pellets... not sure I am convinced unless the coal generator is itself portable and can be taken into the forest...
01:04 January 9, 2013 by ron1amr
This seems to be the same as when there is a fire. Fires from forests will most likely not harm the environment like say exhaust from motor vehicles. It will be interesting studying how particles from this burning will affect the environment which is a natural carbon not like carbon emitted from vehicles or planes. I dont know the difference between this type of coal and traditional coal. As they say coal is very bad for the environment responsible partly for climate change.
07:09 January 9, 2013 by munir akhtar
If it really works well it may be beneficial for countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Egypt and North and central Africa, Maxico and South Amarica where crops like cotton, wheat and sugar cane leftover field wastes can be turned into coal to run small thermal power plants. Financial acpects are also good in creating jobs, sale and marketing of coal for cooking and transportation. Directly and indirectly the suburbian population will gain as any power recource will improve living conditions, less burden on governments' central grid stations and allied small industris. I hope scientists and financers will take this innovation seriously to slide down the world's power shortage and debt graph.
16:01 January 9, 2013 by raandy
Thats a possibility that it could help places like Pakistan, I know when they were looking for donations during the floods in Pakistan I wanted to donate but my garden hose only went to the end of my driveway.
Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd