Biomass carbonization

Advanced Biochar Research and Development Facility

Welcome to our research and development facility, dedicated to the exploration and advancement of biochar and biochar nanomaterials technology. As part of our academic institution's commitment to sustainable development and scientific innovation, we offer a collaborative space where industry and academia converge to pioneer environmental solutions.

State-of-the-Art Rotary Kiln Pyrolysis Unit

Central to our facility is the advanced rotary kiln pyrolysis unit. This sophisticated system is designed to convert various types of biomass into high-quality biochar. The unit can process up to 50kg of biomass per hour at temperatures of up to 850 °C. The integration of a twin-screw feeding system enhances the unit's versatility, accommodating a diverse array of biomass sources, such as wood chips, husks, sludges, fine powders, etc. This capability allows us to explore a wide range of research questions and applications, from waste management to biochar optimization.

Twin-Screw Feeding System: Enhancing Biomass Processing

Our twin-screw feeding system represents a significant advancement in biomass processing. It ensures uniform feeding, which is crucial for consistent and high-quality biochar output. This system exemplifies our commitment to exploring efficient and innovative solutions for biochar production.

Precision in Process Control for Tailored Biochar Applications

In our quest for precision and optimization, we employ advanced process control technologies. These allow us to meticulously adjust and monitor process parameters, facilitating the production of biochar suited for specific research and industrial applications. Our focus is on fine-tuning the properties of biochar for its potential uses in soil enhancement, water filtration, as a component in advanced manufacturing, and many other applications.

Biochar Nanomaterials: Advancing Nanotechnology Research

Our facility is also equipped to delve into the emerging field of biochar nanomaterials. This area of research holds great promise, offering novel properties for potential applications in various sectors, including electronics and environmental remediation.

Collaboration at the Intersection of Academia and Industry

We view our facility as a nexus of academic inquiry and industrial application. By converting biomass waste into valuable biochar and nanomaterials, we are not only contributing to environmental sustainability but also fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. We are eager to partner with industry leaders, researchers, and innovators in exploring the potential of biochar technologies.

Invitation for Collaboration and Research

We encourage industry partners and fellow researchers to join us in this endeavour. Our facility is not just a production site; it’s a dynamic environment for research, learning, and the development of sustainable solutions. Through collaboration, we can expand our understanding and application of biochar technologies for a more sustainable future.

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Technology Readiness Level assessment

According to the BIOMAC Grant Agreement (grant number: 952941), all Pilot Lines have been validated at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4 or 5 prior to the beginning of the project and are expected to reach TRL 7. Below is the TRL scale considered in Horizon 2020 projects:

  • TRL 1 – basic principles observed
  • TRL 2 – technology concept formulated
  • TRL 3 – experimental proof of concept
  • TRL 4 – technology validated in lab
  • TRL 5 – technology validated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 6 – technology demonstrated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 7 – system prototype demonstration in operational environment
  • TRL 8 – system complete and qualified
  • TRL 9 – actual system proven in operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies; or in space)

The following information is required for the exploitation planning of the BIOMAC Open Innovation Test Bed and in particular its business plan:

Pilot line 8 at the UK Biochar Research Centre (UEdin) was initially evaluated at TRL 4-5. The main contribution of PL8 within the BIOMAC OITB is the production of nano-sized biochar via slow pyrolysis. The production system at the start of the project consisted of a continuous rotary kiln reactor (3m length) capable of processing temperatures up to 850°C and variable residence time of the feedstock within the heated reactor. Biomass of variable size can be fed into the system using a simple gravitational cone-shaped steel hopper, feeding into a horizontal screw which then feeds into the heated reactor under N2 atmosphere. Syngas and condensable tars produced during the reaction are fed into an afterburner operated with a propane gas burner to completely oxidise the produced gas and liquids before the resulting flue gas is emitted via a stack. While the production of biochar was already validated at the start of the project through serial trials (each with >50kg biochar produced per day), the post-processing to achieve nano-sized biochar particles was conducted in small (50ml volume) ball mills to grind the material to the target size. Furthermore, the feeding system posed serious limitations in terms of use of a varied range of biomass. The resulting nanosized biochar was functionally validated by partner institutions through printing applications requiring specific particle sizes.

Upgrades to PL8 were focused on the pyrolysis system as well as on the post-processing of the produced biochar. Within the pilot line pyrolysis system for the production of biochar, the following parts were upgraded to provide enhanced processing capacities: the feeding system, the afterburner system including the stack, the cooling system for the produced biochar, as well as monitoring abilities for the produced syngas.

Produced biochar from BIOMAC feedstock (lignin):

The feeding system:

A twin-screw feeder utilizing a specifically designed trapezoidal shape was installed, enabling continuous feeding of difficult material from light powders and liquid sludge to dense biomass pellets. The new system avoids bridging effects within the hopper and the feeding speed can be fully controlled using load cells measuring the total weight of the feeder continuously. The system can be operated under specific gas atmospheres (N2, CO2, Air).

The afterburner system:

The cooling system:

The indirect cooling system to cool the produced biochar from up to 800°C to room temperature was upgraded to achieve sufficient cooling rates for the enhanced throughput enabled by the afterburner upgrade.

Emission monitoring:

A new gas phase FTIR analyser was installed to enable the monitoring of gas samples before syngas combustion.

Post-processing capabilities:

The milling procedure for the production of nano-sized biochar particles was optimized using a 4x500ml planetary ball mill. Additionally, smaller particle sizes are achieved by using a wet milling method of quick-freezed biochar (cooled using liquid N2) in methanol solution.