Mayor Andy Street opens new Bioenergy research facilities

  • European Bioenergy Research Institute at Aston hosts industry showcase
  • West Midlands Mayor opens new £1.5-million labs

Aston University welcomed West Midlands Mayor Andy Street to open new facilities at the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI), Aston University on Thursday (25thOctober).

EBRI at Aston conducts world-class research into all aspects of bioenergy, including energy-from-waste and the development of new bio-products and services – all of which contribute to improving the UK’s carbon footprint and improving security of energy supplies.

As part of EBRI’s research and development industry showcase, the centre’s new analytical, biological and thermal processing facilities were officially opened by the West Midlands Mayor, with Aston’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alec Cameron, in attendance.

The Mayor was given a tour of the new £1.5-million state of the art facilities, which have been funded by the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) initiative. He also made a visit to the industrial showcase area to meet a selection of businesses supported by EBRI, as well as meeting the centre’s team of scientists and business associates.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: “When it comes to engineering and energy, Aston is playing a key role and that is nothing new, it has been so for 50 years. Energy and renewables are a critical part of our economic plan and it is a real strength of ours in the West Midlands giving us more power in the sector.

“I am really looking forward to the outcome of the research being undertaken at EBRI, we are looking forward to the insights that are going to come out, the innovation you will drive and companies that might be set up off the back of the research that you will do here.”

Aston University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alec Cameron added: “It is a great honour to welcome Andy to campus to officially open the new EBRI labs. Aston’s School of Engineering  has well over 40 years’ successful research into bioenergy and with the launch of EBRI five years ago and the investment from the ERA into these new facilities, we are set to see more ground-breaking work in this critically important area of research.”

EBRI’s newly appointed Director, Professor Patricia Thornley, who also leads the UK-wide Supergen Bioenergy Hub project said:

“Last year the UK obtained more energy from bioenergy than any other renewable. It is a key part of our strategy to address climate change.  If we don’t have bioenergy in the mix it will cost much more to meet our 2050 carbon reduction commitments.

“The wonderful laboratory facilities here give us a unique opportunity to understand the conversion science and translate that understanding for businesses to help them improve their process efficiency, generate more energy and produce better quality products.

“But the ultimate aim has to be to reduce carbon emissions and so we need to connect that in-depth scientific expertise and the results generated in the EBRI labs to the real world.”

The £1.5-million ERA funding has benefited a number of laboratories at EBRI, including:

  • Six new bio-reactors for developing new micro-organisms for anaerobic digestion and fermentation to improve conversion efficiencies and selectivity to preferred products.
  • The thermal process laboratories have new analytical equipment, carrying out advanced research on high temperature processes to convert biomass into more valuable gases, liquids and solids.
  • Two advanced analytical machines have been purchased, including a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and an X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS) for studying the morphology, topology and the surface characteristics of solid materials.

The equipment will improve the understanding of advanced catalysts and material science, which will allow EBRI researchers to design and engineer materials with enhanced properties to improve products in the bioenergy and environmental fields.

Emma Kelly, Chief Operating Officer, Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) said: “EBRI is renowned for the leading role it plays in bioenergy research and the equipment that we have invested in, thanks to Innovate UK, will enable it to stay at the forefront of bioenergy innovation.

“In addition, EBRI is also doing great work in showing small business owners in the Midlands how they can benefit from the opportunities available in bioenergy, through their Bioenergy Masterclasses. These enthusiastic entrepreneurs are also able to take advantage of the wealth of expertise at EBRI and also the new facilities that we have supported.”