Sustainable Process Technology (SPT)

SPT is a relatively young research group (2011) that evolved from the TCCB (Thermo-Chemical Conversion of Biomass) group of profs. Groeneveld/Van Swaaij.

The work on biomass shifted in the years 2007 – 2014 from only biofuels to a mix of biofuels (refinery feeds & blending compounds) and biochemicals. A research line on biomaterials (thermoplastics) is being started-up. The work on biochemicals is moving in the directions of smart combination & integration of conversion and separation and also includes the exploration of the interface between biotechnology and thermochemistry (e.g. production and purification of fermentable sugars via pyrolysis of lignocelluloses).

In 2012 J.P. Lange (Shell) joint the group; he brings in knowledge on the chemistry and catalysis of biomass conversions. The work on biochemicals clearly showed the need to include more research on separations in our portfolio. Separation of sugars from lignin derivatives, algae lipid extraction using switchable solvents, and the recovery of volatile fatty acids from diluted aqueous streams are our current research lines in the bio-domain.

We further expanded our work on separations to the development of affinity separations for close boiling systems aiming at reducing the (energetic) cost of these processes. A.A. Kiss (Akzo Nobel) joined the team at the end of 2014 to support our work on separations. The groups work on CCS has progressed into the broader theme of recovery and recycling of key elements. Here we study: i) CO2 air capture, ii) processes utilizing CO2 and electricity as feedstock (products: algae, MEOH), iii) recovery of P & N from waste streams. For smaller scale MEOH production a dead-end reactor with internal recycle is under development.

Our water research is closely related to our bio-refinery work as we investigate the conversion of bio-based aqueous waste streams to H2/CH4.  Also, a new process to separate salts from water (e.g. for the production of drinking water) based on supercritical conditions is being developed.