EBRI conducts world class bioenergy and energy systems research – ranging from fundamental research and development through to the deployment of innovative technologies. Our activities focus on scientific and technological aspects of biomass production, conversion and utilisation of products for renewable power, heat, transport fuels, hydrogen and chemicals.
EBRI’s capabilities cover the breadth of advanced thermal, and catalytic conversion processes. These include gasification, pyrolysis, catalysis and upgrading of biomass, wastes and plastics to high quality products and fuels.
All types of pyrolysis are being researched and developed in EBRI including fast, intermediate and slow pyrolysis, as well as torrefaction and biochar. Pyrolysis is thermal decomposition occurring in the absence of oxygen. Lower process temperatures and longer vapour residence times favour the production of charcoal. High temperatures and longer residence times increase biomass conversion to gas, and moderate temperatures and short vapour residence time are optimum for producing liquids. Three products – gas, liquid and solid – are always produced.
EBRI’s research is mainly focused on addressing the technical barriers of existing gasification technology through research and development. Current gasification research activity involves the coupling of an intermediate pyrolysis technology developed by EBRI – the Pyroformer™ – with a fluidised bed gasifier. The aim is to deliver a purely gaseous fuel from the pyrolysis of a wide range of traditionally difficult, low-value feedstocks. As well as the attraction of having a simple and easy to handle product, this arrangement also avoids the need for a condenser, filtration unit and aerosol precipitator which are required for a stand-alone pyrolysis process. It also provides for the separation before gasification of a fraction of biochar which is valuable in its own right, but which also contains all the ash components of the feed. Such components could cause serious problems within the gasifier itself. EBRI also carries out more fundamental studies into downdraft and fluidised bed gasification using a combination of laboratory-scale units and computational modelling. One particular area of interest is dual fluidised bed gasification where the gas is produced in the absence of oxygen in one bed, and the resulting char is separated and combusted in a second bed in order to return the necessary heat to the first bed.
EBRI’s research focuses on developing new heterogeneous catalysts for the sustainable transformation of biomass into fuels and chemicals. Through the use of advanced nanotechnologies and surface sensitive techniques, we aim to obtain molecular level insight into important surface phenomena over metal, metal oxide and alloy catalysts. The importance of surface chemistry in everyday life is also reflected in the diversity of research undertaken within our group, ranging from designer catalysts for clean chemical synthesis, to improved magnetic materials for high density data storage and even novel antibacterial wound dressings. A particular focus of EBRI’s research is the rational design of new heterogeneous catalysts for green and sustainable chemistry, and the associated development of cutting-edge instrumental techniques (e.g. operando XAS and time-resolved XPS) for investigating dynamic structural and chemical changes within such catalytically-active materials. EBRI is using these methodologies to explore a host of industrially important chemical transformations including alkane activation over model automotive exhaust catalysts, aerobic selective oxidation of alcohols, and the origin of promotional effects in sulphated zirconia solid acid catalysts. A particular interest is in tuning pore architectures to improve in-pore mass transport of bulky reactants and products typically encountered during biomass transformation.
EBRI along with its VIGIL partners are working together to develop a new communication and control platform for Vehicle-to-Grid/Building (V2G/V2B) systems: an off-vehicle system that controls how, when and the rate at which electric vehicle batteries are charged and discharged with respect to local substation constraints and building energy requirements. A communications adaptor will be developed to ensure the flexibility and compatibility of the VIGIL platform with different manufacturer’s V2G charge-points. A V2G mobile application will be also delivered, together with an optimised building management system.
Researchers at the EBRI have developed the Pyroformer™, an innovative bioenergy solution which is unique in its use of multiple waste feedstocks to generate cost-effective heat and power and reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. The Pyroformer™ offers the potential for carbon negative heat and power generation. Making power from waste using the Pyroformer™ has environmental, social and economic benefits