Biomass utilisation is a vibrant research area in the department, with experimental and simulation projects covering a large number of areas. Some of these projects are carried out in collaboration with industry.
Research is looking at production of biodiesel from waste biomass (with spent coffee grounds as feedstock), enhancement of biogas production using waste water derived catalysts and the design of photo-bio-reactors to grow biomass on an industrial scale for production of biodiesel. Research is also active in solid-liquid separations, characterisation of complex rheology in organic suspensions and innovative distributed power generation from biomass and agricultural residues.
Enhancing biomass gasification properties using embedded waste water derived catalysts
This work introduces an innovative method to improve combustion performance by coating biomass pellets with inorganic of sodium silicates and waste sludges prepared by the sol-gel techniques thereby creating catalytically enhanced biomass pellets.
The physical properties such as compression strength, stability, density, porosity, humidity content and biological degradation of the developed pellets were investigated as a function of their formulation and the energetic properties were investigated by TPO and gasification tests. The catalytic properties of the binding films in the pellets are giving promising results as they were able to degrade the problematic tars, increased hydrogen production and avoided potential fouling in the packed bed.
Mechanisms and chemical kinetics of biomass conversion to liquid and gaseous fuels
This project aims to establish practical kinetics models of biomass conversion into liquid and gas fuels including that engineers can use under a wide range of operating conditions.
Increasing environmental concerns about carbon dioxide production coupled with increase in oil prices are turning the bio-refinery option to be attractive as a viable route for renewable energy production. The bio-refinery concept is similar to the concept of a petroleum refinery as it integrates a variety of processing techniques to covert a range of biomass feeds of complex mixtures into a variety of fuels, power, heat, and value-added chemicals. This project aims to establish practical kinetics models of biomass conversion into liquid and gas fuels including that engineers can use under a wide range of operating conditions. The biomass-conversion includes steps of hydrolysis to sugars, dehydration to polyols, aldol condensation and hydrogenation to liquid fuels or reforming to hydrogen fuels. The kinetic models achieved provide a promising option to produce, under controlled operating conditions, the desired route towards hydrogen, light or heavy oxygenates and alkanes products from biomass-derived oxygenates.
Waste as resource: Extraction of valuable substances
One of the challenges facing food and agriculture industry is how to process waste materials to create valuable products. The research led by Dr Vesna Najdanovic aims to develop new and innovative ways to convert waste into useful products by creating a resource from the residual materials, including fermentation broth, agricultural and food industry wastes.
New technologies such as pollution controls and combustion engineering have advanced to the point that emissions from burning biomass in industrial facilities are generally lower than emissions produced when using fossil fuels. The volume of biomass available to be burned is increasing, and therefore it is possible to extract a significant amount of valuable chemicals in relatively large volume, given the volumes of available biomass. Many of these chemicals (antioxidants, nucleotides, oils etc.) have high value on market. The aim of this project is to characterise and recover various useful chemicals from residual biomass including fermentation broth, olive stones, nettles, etc.
Clean energy utilisation from biogas and biomass gasification
This project aims to develop realistic and predictive physicochemical models for biogas and bio-syngas combustion and mappings between the combustion and emission characteristics and the fuel compositions for clean energy utilisation from renewable gaseous fuels.
The project will provide a better understanding of the complex physicochemical processes of bioenergy utilisation, which can advance bioenergy technology towards deployment. Based on rigorous modelling and experimentation, the project will deliver a thorough understanding of the utilisation of biogas and bio-syngas, highlighting the effects of variable composition.