Innovation That Matters

The cedar board and shell ginger that were tested produced compression liquids that significantly inhibited influenza | Photo source Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash

Compressing biomass to create alternative fuel and antivirals

Agriculture & Energy

The system improves the efficiency of using organic waste materials for power

Spotted: Solid biomass is expected to be the fastest growing type of feedstock in the biomass electricity market, with the household market becoming the fastest growing segment of end users. At the moment however, the conversion rate of turning plant biomass into a usable power source is inefficient. Organic biomass is generally made up of more than 50 per cent moisture, and drying and heating organic materials is time-consuming and expensive. 

Led by Dr. Toshiaki Ohara, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology and Experimental Medicine, a team of researchers from Okayama University has created a new compression method of drying plant biomass that reduces the number of steps needed to turn organic waste into an energy source. 

The new system of mechanical compression also removes liquid from the feedstock in a way that retains water-soluble lignin. Lignin is an organic binding substance found in wood and other plants, and after cellulose, is the most abundant renewable carbon source on Earth. Water-soluble lignin has antiviral properties that are being explored as a means of protecting against influenza and other viruses. 

After compression, the scientists crushed and then broke up the mass into pellets which were burned to determine their energy performance. The compression method works with both wood and general plant waste, making the new system easy for communities to incorporate into current energy networks. And the lignin-filled liquid that results from the process could become a valuable additional by-product capable of further enhancing a local economy, especially as carbon nanotechnology develops.  

Innovators are finding a range of incredible new ways of creating power from food waste, and Springwise has also spotted eggshells replacing batteries and bananas being converted into hydrogen.

Written By: Keely Khoury




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