Q: Which are the milestones achieved till date that you would highlight?
A: Electrochemical conversion has a potential to combine use of renewable electricity and renewable resources, such as biomass, to contribute to transition towards more sustainable chemical industry. PERFORM projects aims to develop a Perform Power Platform, where feasibility of two electrochemical transformation routes to make value added chemicals from biobased sources will be demonstrated. The Power Platform will be a flexible system where, in the future, other electrochemical conversion routes can be tested and help in brining electrochemical conversion technologies closer to implementation.
The objective of the work package 3 dedicated to System Platform Innovation is to develop and optimize operation of an electrochemical reactor and downstream processing technologies for the target compounds.
PERFORM team has already reached several important milestones in the project. The first one is related to the electrochemical reactor, where we successfully developed the design of the reactor, currently under construction. TNO, VITO, Avantium and Hysytech, came up with a conceptual reactor design and sizing, then TNO performed modelling studies of the electrochemical reactor and based on the results and discussions with partners the final design was fixed. Currently, Hysytech is busy with construction of the 0.1 m2 flexible electrochemical reactor, Demeter-1, suitable for testing various electrode types (plate, mesh, foam) with various inter-electrode distances, at industrially relevant size, and receiving its name from the Greek goddess of the harvest and agriculture, Demeter. In the coming months we will have the reactor ready for testing.
The second important milestone reached in this work package is related to the downstream process (DSP) development activities. PERFORM partners, VITO, Hysytech, Avantium, Novamont, Radici Group, Perstorp, AVA Biochem, INSTM and TNO defined and developed the DSP strategy for separation of target molecules maleic, valeric, glucaric and adipic acid. Process Flow Diagrams are ready, and proof-of-principle was obtained for all proposed DSP technologies. For instance, promising results obtained for electrolyte recycling and concentration of products in the electrolyte with Electrodialysis and Nanofiltration. Very diverse DSP technologies such as freeze crystallization, extraction, precipitation, distillation were shown to be promising as well for separation of target molecules and solvent regeneration.
Another aspect that is Important to mention is that the first product samples (maleic acid), were delivered to project partners for testing and together with Novamont, Radici Group, Perstorp, TNO is working on improving quality of the products.
Q: What are the next steps regarding System Platform Innovation?
A: The next steps will involve testing and optimization of the single cell electrochemical reactor, Demeter-1. Based on the obtained results, a cell stack will be designed and constructed for both routes and, if needed, an improved version of Demeter reactor will be constructed. Additionally, Demeter-1 will provide electrolyte mixtures for optimization of the DSP technologies and the product quality. The obtained data will be also used for the techno-economics studies. Regarding the DSP, next steps will involve construction of pilot DSP units, their testing and optimization. TNO will work as well in the generation of product samples for our partners.