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NEXT AIR BIOTREAT develops clean technology solutions for removing VOCs emissions

The VOCUS® and BONCUS® solutions, advanced and developed by the NEXT AIR BIOTREAT project, will help the EU to address the challenge of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions.

Emissions of VOCs into the environment affect our air, soil and water, leading to potential risks to human health including respiratory illnesses. Some VOCs are even mutagenic or toxic to reproduction and harmful to the unborn. Therefore tackling the problem of VOCs, which come from vehicle emissions, fuel combustion and domestic and industrial solvent usage among other things, is a significant challenge for the EU and European businesses. The NEXT AIR BIOTREAT project team has been working for almost four years now to address this challenge and has successfully advanced and developed solutions that use clean and natural processes to remove VOCs emissions from the air. Advancing and expanding the scope of VOCUS® technology One of the main achievements of the project team has been the optimisation of VOCUS® technology – a biotrickling filter for the removal of solvents in the flexographic sector. This advancement means that VOCUS® – which is already available on the market – will now enjoy an even wider uptake. Project coordinator Carmen Gabaldon from the University of València notes, ‘Several flexographic companies in EU (the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Portugal) have chosen to remove VOCs by using this smart and environmentally friendly solution in order to meet with the EU’s Solvent Emission Directive. These companies are benefitting from a cut in the operational costs of air pollution control in comparison to those ones that are still running regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs) to destroy VOCs. And they are, at the same time, reducing their environmental impact.’ The VOCUS® technology has proven so successful that the NEXT AIR BIOTREAT researchers also decided to investigate whether it could be used to remove not only solvents but also air emissions containing styrene. The results were promising and now the team is preparing the engineering implementation for the real-world solution. Professor Gabaldon adds, ‘If successful, this would be the first industrial application in the EU for removing styrene emissions by biotrickling filtration, and an open opportunity to continue with the expansion of the biotrickling filter in the chemical sector.’ The team is now fully focused on the engineering and implementation of VOCUS® for the removal of styrene emissions. This work is taking place at the premises of project partner Exel Composites in Belgium. BONCUS® technology: changing paradigms in air pollution control Another impressive ‘first’ for the project team has been the development of a new biotechnology for removal of solvents emissions in the flexographic sector for companies that consume more than 100 tonnes of solvents per year. The proof of concept for this innovative technology, named BONCUS® (pending patent), has been confirmed and the project team says that the results are ‘very exciting’. According to Professor Gabaldon, BONCUS® will change paradigms in air pollution control: ‘For the first time, industry will be able to clean waste gases while, at same time, recycling them into bioenergy. There is a good chance for converting this process in BAT (Best available technology) to solve the air emission problems of the flexographic sector.’ The project partners involved in the research on BONCUS® – PAS Solutions in the Netherlands and the University of València in Spain – are now focusing their efforts on industrialising and launching the technology and are actively disseminating it among potential end-users through the whole EU flexographic sector. Next steps In order to ensure that work continues on BONCUS® when NEXT AIR BIOTREAT concludes this September, the TRAINONSEC project, also funded by the FP7 programme, was developed. The project is training four early stage researchers to address the remaining challenges of BONCUS® – including cutting investment costs and making it more attractive to companies with VOC air emissions in order to speed up market penetration. For further information, please visit: NEXT AIR BIOTREAT