Interview with Sorani Montenegro, R&D specialist at Hysytech
What are the main responsibilities of Hysytech within the project?
The responsibilities that Hysytech has in the PERFORM project are mainly focused on work package 4, where we are dealing with the engineering design, scale-up, process optimisation, manufacturing, and assembly of the final technology readiness level 6 platform technology for two targeted reactions. Together with the rest of the consortium partners, Hysytech is responsible for the development of sustainable technology, with high performance and cost-competitive to be able to produce the targeted valuable building blocks. To do so, we are working to build a simple and reliable process, highly integrated and optimised. Later, the process needs to be properly designed with process intensification, decreasing CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) and OPEX (Operating Expense), as well as emissions.
In PERFORM, two different showcases industrially relevant will be demonstrated; the first one consists of the paired electrosynthesis of furfural to maleic acid, and levulinic acid to valeric acid. The second showcase is the paired tandem electrosynthesis of glucose to glucaric acid and further glucaric acid to adipic acid.
Both showcases will be demonstrated in the same platform in which the electro-catalytic reactors will be integrated with the Downstream Process (DSP) for the separation of the reaction products from the electrolyte and product purification. The choice and the optimisation of the unit operations needed for the DSP are deeply dependent on the Upstream Process (UPS), while the UPS configuration depends, at the same time, on e.g., the initial feedstock, electrodes design, and materials, electrochemical reactor configuration, process conditions, etc. This makes clear that close collaboration of Hysytech with the partner dealing at lab scale with the USP and DSP is mandatory.
The UPS core is the electrochemical reactor. Hysytech is responsible for the design, optimisation, and construction of the reactor. A unique prototype of its kind (0.1m2) was manufactured by Hysytech by the end of 2020 and it is being validated at TNO for the production of maleic and valeric acid and it will be tested by VITO in the coming months for adipic acid production. Results from the first testing campaigns and feedback from VITO and TNO will be used to improve the reactor design. The final reactor will then be scaled up using multiple cells, commonly known as stack configuration.
What do you like most about the PERFORM project?
What I mostly like from the PERFORM PROJECT is the innovation degree and variability both in terms of consortium and scope of the project.
The PERFORM project is aiming to reduce the environmental impact of chemical production by lowering CO2 and N2O emissions thanks to the use of biobased products, the development of highly integrated and optimised systems, and the use of renewable energy. In summary, the project is expected to contribute to innovative technology development by reducing the impact of the chemical industry which is in line with Hysytech’s vision.
The consortium is a multidisciplinary group with considerable experience from which you can learn in different competencies. Lastly, we are all together doing really new things and developing innovative processes and it is very exciting for my team and me to be part of this challenge and see if things are going to work or not from a technical, sustainable, and economic point of view.