Bioprocess Energy Technology Laboratory

Introduction

In the BIOETlab we are conducting research that focuses on development and design of low temperature chemical and biotechnological processes for production of liquid biofuels and biochemicals using sustainable biorefinery concepts. Starting from chemical characterization of the biomass or organic waste using analytical techniques such as HPLC and GC the aim is to: (1) convert a given biomass from the society (for example algae and municipal solid waste) into fermentable sugars by physical/chemical/enzymatic/biological processes, (2) convert the produced sugars into biofuels and/or biochemcials by microbial fermentation with the lowest possible energy penalty, and finally (3) design processes for easy and feasible downstream processing. Furthermore, we are working on extracting and identifying high value products e.g. pharmaceuticals and nutriceuticals for co-production of bioenergy and biochemical to enhance the economic feasibility of bioenergy processes. The different solutions are evaluated for their sustainability of the technological innovations in future societies for this we are using modeling tools such as Super Pro Designer.

Facilities

The BIOETlab has a variety of chemical and microbial processing equipment, needed for biomass fractionation, conversion, and analysis, including:

  • High temperature biomass pretreatment/fractionation reactors
  • Lab-scale algae growth facility  incl. 10 photo-bioreactors for strain development
  • Lab-scale fermenters
  • Soxhlet extraction
  • Various analytical equipment (HPLC, GC-MS, LC-MS, Flash, ICP, ect.)
  • Automatic Methane Potential Test System (AMPTS) II

Features & services

Bio-processing

Bio-processing is the conversion of biomass (plants, org. waste, algae) into bio-fuels, bio-materials, and bio-chemicals. In the BIOETlab we work with finding technical solutions for sustainable and economic feasible production of biofuels. We are using several different processing methods to change the chemical structure of biomass in a way that enable us to chemically or microbially convert target components into fuel and value added chemicals. Examples of processes are: solvent extraction, pyrolysis, hydrocracking, wet oxidation, hydrothermal treatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and microbial fermentation.

Waste to energy

The waste to energy research is focused on conversion of waste (e.g. agricultural residuals and household waste) and bi-products from industry into new useful products. We are working to develop processes that target the organic fraction of agricultural residuals, municipal solid waste, as well as organic industrial waste. Our main focus is low temperature biological processes to yield different types of bio-fuels (e.g. ethanol and biogas) or biochemicals. The conceptual biological process is built on three platforms: 1. Physical, chemical, and biological pretreatment of biomass, 2. Enzymatic hydrolysis, and 3. Fermentation of sugars and other organic compounds into biofuels or biochemicals.

Applied/Industrial microbiology

In applied industrial microbiology we are aiming to find technical solutions for sustainable production of biomaterials: biopolymers, biofibres, biocomposites, films, biomedicines, food-additives and functional food from plants and lignocellulosic materials. The microbial substrates we are producing when processing biomass are often a challenge to the microbial system (compared to clean synthetic substrates) and require special cultures and bioreactor systems. Microbial systems are chosen based on substrate composition, interesting metabolic products, and robustness (high growth rate, high productivity, and ability to compete with contaminating microorganisms). We are using batch, fed-batch, and continuous bioreactors and techniques such substrate detoxification and cell immobilization to increase microbial productivity. 

Research topics under bioprocess modeling

Design and modeling of biorefineries using Super Pro Designer

A biorefinery is a combination of biotechnological and chemical processes that converts a given biomass into industrial products. The first step in biorefining is often biomass fractionation where biomass is separated into a liquid and a solid fraction. Sometimes this is achieved by hydrolyzing part of the biomass resulting in a liquid fraction containing soluble sugars and a less recalcitrant solid fiber fraction. Each fraction can then be processed further (e.g. by enzymatic hydrolysis and microbial fermentation) to produce one or several products. For most biomasses it is difficult to determine the best set of processes based solely on experimental data. The laboratory work is often focused on optimization of the fractionation, hydrolysis, and microbial conversion. By modeling of the processes in e.g. Super Pro Designer we can add up-stream and down-stream processes and examine the feasibility of the full process and/or examine the feasibility and sustainability of different process scenarios to get the best possible utilization of a given biomass.

Sponsors

Large Scale Bioenergy Lab 2

Large Scale Bioenergy Lab is financed through Interreg Deutschland-Danmark by means of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Read more about Interreg Deutschland-Danmark at www. Interreg5a.eu

Location

Niels Bohrs Vej 8, Building C2, floor level

Contact information

Associate professor Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen
Direct phone: +45 9940 3317
E-mail: jhn@et.aau.dk

Assistant professor Mette Hedegaard Thomsen
Direct phone: +45 9356 2196
E-mail: mht@et.aau.dk

Selected Project Examples