There is currently a whole host of technological advancements in use and development which are changing the way we collect, manage and destroy our waste. This is increasingly an import area of innovation, as we collectively use more resources and leave more waste behind. One technology which is already helping is biomass, which is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms.
New Biomass Technology In Development
Biomass is not a new creation, but the techniques and machines used to create it have come a long way in recent years. There are now production facilities all over the world which break down cellulose into raw materials used in paper products, specialty chemicals, plastics and biofuels.
“Everything you can do with oil you can do with biomass and feed stock,” said Carl Lehrburger, who co-founded PureVision Technology in 1992. They are among a variety of companies around the world who are looking to establish the technology more within the industry.
Breakthroughs in advanced biorefining allow waste companies to reduce the waiting time in the biomass process from a few days down to less than 30 minutes. The rapidly deconstructed biomass breaks down into pulp, sugars and lignin – a polymer in the cell wall of plants that makes them rigid.
Biomass has been developed for a variety of purposes, but has predominantly been tested as a potential fuel replacement as the global price of oil increased. “At first the emphasis was on renewable fuels to offset the cost of imported oil,” said Harry Cullinan, director for Paper and Bioresource Engineering at Auburn University. “Over time, renewable chemicals and all that followed.”
“Second-generation biomass uses the non-food portion of corn and other feed stock,” Lehrburger said. “The industry has been developing ways to break down biomass that was much harder than starchy materials.”
He said previous industry technology uses enzymes to break down cellulose, producing primarily biofuels. The latest biomass machines use a countercurrent approach, feeding in solids at one end and fluids at the other end of an auger-like machine. The resulting collision results in the formation of desirable and marketable materials.
“When the solids and liquid, or whatever chemicals, are in isolation they work their magic,” said Cullinan, a chemical engineering professor whose primary focus has been on the pulp and paper industry, alternative fuels and biorefining.”
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