Researchers at Luleå University of Technology (LTU) will test production of butyric acid from biomass following funding from the Swedish Energy Agency.
Kris Berglund, professor in Biochemical and chemical process engineering at LTU said the advantage of the process is that it produces “biobased” butyric acid.
Chemicals derived from biomass is an area developing faster than fuels from biomass
This is a so-called green chemical which has a wide range of applications and, the researchers believe, a direct market for commercialisation.
“Chemicals derived from biomass” is an area developing faster than “fuels from biomass”, claims Berglund.
“I think you can make the analogy that the demo plant is the hardware and the organisms you put in are the software, and depending on which organisms you use different products can be made,” said Ulrika Rova, associate professor in Biochemical and chemical process engineering at LTU.
Applications for biobased butyric acid include its use in the food and cosmetic industries. Butyric acid can also be used for the manufacture of plastics.
To extract the sugars, the biomass is pretreated by SEKAB in a chemical process, with dilute sulphuric acid, referred to as hydrolysis. By using the resulting hydrolysates good results have already been achieved in lab-scale trials.
“The challenge is to make the bacteria utilise the biomass efficiently so that as much of the raw material as possible is converted into products”, said Magnus Sjöblom, PhD at the Division of sustainable process engineering, LTU.
The scientists are hoping this project will compliment the ongoing biofuel research at the ethanol demo plant in Örnsköldsvik.