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Biomass to Sugars Breakthrough Allows for a Large Decrease in Reactor Volume

| Editor: Manja Wühr

Research in biomass-to-sugar conversion technologies makes it possible to reduce the size of reactor needed by a factor of up to 5,000 compared with traditional methods. The European Federation of Chemical Engineering acknowledged this research that was commended with the EFCE Excellence Award in Process Intensification.

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Dr Danilo Cantero was awarded the EFCE Excellence Award in Process Intensification
Dr Danilo Cantero was awarded the EFCE Excellence Award in Process Intensification
(Picture: EFCE )

Dr Danilo Cantero was awarded the EFCE Excellence Award in Process Intensification for his thesis demonstrating supercritical hydrolysis of cellulose or biomass to sugars. The research shows that for biomass-to-sugar conversion technologies, the size of the reactor needed could be reduced by a factor of up to 5,000 due to the increased rate of reaction. This could mean significant cost savings, as well as a decreased carbon footprint.

Dr Cantero’s method uses water at supercritical conditions to de-polymerise the cellulose or biomass, resulting in a faster rate of reaction while also slowing down unwanted glucose decomposition.

The increased rate of reaction allows for a large decrease in reactor volume. Dr. Cantero’s research demonstrated that his process could yield the same amount of sugar as conventional methods, using a reactor that’s 5000 times smaller. His process is also faster, saving hours or even days compared with existing methods for hydrolysing cellulose or biomass. In addition, the reactor can act as a heat exchanger; the process employs instantaneous heating and cooling methods which allows for a high yield of sugar from cellulose hydrolysis – as high as 95 per cent.

Dr Cantero completed his thesis titled: ‘Intensification of Cellulose Hydrolysis Process by Supercritical Water, Obtaining of Added Value Products’, at the University of Valladolid, Spain.

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