Hydrothermal Biofuels Research Pilot Plant
The Biofuels Research Pilot Plant is the first semi-automated, continuous-flow kilo-scale research facility of its kind in Australia. The plant will look at how biomass - particularly woody plant matter - can be used to produce chemicals used in the likes of food, fragrances and plastics and fuels more efficiently. These are abundant and high in celluloses but contain lignin that envelops the cellulose and makes it difficult to break down.
The plant converts biomasses into fuels and chemicals under hydrothermal conditions, submersing them in hot water (up to 300 degrees celsius) and subjecting them to high pressure (equivalent to up to 250 atmospheres). The plant will experiment with the variables of production, with the aim of finding an economical processing method. Australian academic and industrial researchers can now investigate turning fundamental discoveries into practical applications that employ the unique green processing environment offered by hot water at high pressure.
By experimenting with different temperatures, pressures and solvents in the production process the plant will advance the cause of those looking for long-term fuel alternatives to oil. The continuous-flow plant allows us to investigate process development, process optimisation and produce realistic sample sizes for characterisation and testing.
The plant is a key element of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) Capability 5.5 (Biotechnology Products - Manufacture of Biofuels). It has been constructed with the support of NCRIS and the NSW Science Leveraging Fund administered by the NSW Office for Science and Medical Research.
For more information regarding the opening of the NCRIS Biofuels Plant Opening, please visit the following news article:
New plant to improve biofuels - 14 September 2010