Willow instead of…petrol

The first in Poland technological line for the production of ethanol from wood has just been launched at the Chair of Chemistry of the Faculty of Environmental Management and Agriculture, UWM.

A research team led by Dr Michał Łuczyński from the Chair of Chemistry at the Faculty of Environmental Management and Agriculture of the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, has constructed a technological line for the production of ethanol from lignocellulosic raw material. The lignocellulosic raw material is simply willow wood. Willows are fast-growing and have modest soil requirements. These trees can be planted on wastelands, thus they do not compete with agricultural crops. Moreover, willows are grown for industrial purposes, and the soil for their cultivation may be fertilized with sewage sludge. Owing to this, willow yield can be increased at little cost.

In such a case, what makes our technological line so innovative?

− The novelty of our method lies in the use of ortho-phosphoric acid during the pre-treatment – explains mgr Kamila Orlińska, a doctoral candidate from the Chair of Plant Breeding and Seed Production at the Faculty of Environmental Management and Agriculture, and a member of the team that constructed the line.

−The production of ethanol with the use of this method is not yet profitable. Therefore, we are trying to find a practical application of what is left after the production, that is of the substrate. It could be used as a fertilizer, a material fed into a biogas plant, or it may be applied in the production of biomedical polymers used in the pharmaceutical industry – mgr Kamila Orlińska explains.

The more applications of products obtained during the process of ethanol production, the more profitable the whole technological line is. However, this is not the only option. Kamila Orlińska is trying to find a method that would increase the efficiency of fermentation process. The snag is that such a productivity is boosted by enzymes that are very expensive. The more enzymes, the more alcohol, but the costs are also higher.

−We are on the right track, and our installation has been noticed by one of the Polish oil concerns – informs Prof. Janusz Gołaszewski, the head of the Centre of Renewable Energy Research, and a coordinator of the study on integrated technologies of the production of fuel and energy from biomass and agricultural or other waste.

Apart from the already prepared line for the production of ethanol from wood, this task also requires further works on the technology of production of biogas from agricultural and distillery waste, as well as on the technology of obtaining diesel oil from algae. This research is also highly advanced, and potential marketable products will have been presented probably before the end of 2015. The aim of this project is very ambitious: it comprises the development of integrated technologies of the production of fuel and energy from biomass and agricultural or other waste. In simple words: it would make Polish countryside independent of the fossil fuel energy.

Lech Kryszałowicz

Transl. by AP

 

 

 

 

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