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PROcessing Diluted Aqueous Systems

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - PRODIAS (PROcessing Diluted Aqueous Systems)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2018-12-31

PRODIAS – Processing Diluted Aqueous Systems – fostering European process industries’ competitiveness in the area of renewable based processes.

Introducing renewable raw materials into existing value chains and the development of subsequently needed cost- and energy-efficient water removal, product-recovery and purification techniques are major challenges for the process industry today. In order to unlock the potential of the renewable-based product market for the European process industry, a re-thinking of downstream processing is indispensable. This includes new / optimized separation technologies as well as suitable methodologies for fast-track development of tailored downstream processes.

Industrial biotechnology is an enabling technology to produce both, complex performance products such as Enzymes and chemical value chain intermediates based on renewable resources. A consortium of European process industry companies in the areas of biotechnology, renewable resources, chemistry, process engineering and equipment supply as well as research organizations launched the project PRODIAS (PROcessing Diluted Aqueous Systems) to address the above-mentioned challenges.

Focus of PRODIAS was to adapt separation technologies to the need of white / industrial biotechnology processes and products and to design novel systems combining individual advantages, for example, selectivity and energy efficiency. Moreover, fermentation and biocatalysis by which the valuable products are produced were subject to optimization within the project to enable more efficient and resource-saving downstream processing.

Under the consortial leadership of BASF the partners Cargill, University of Kaiserslautern, Imperial College London, Alfa Laval, GEA Messo PT, Xendo, UPM and Enviplan collaborated to develop the needed technologies and to thus support downstream processing in industrial biotechnology.
A standard production process for (bio-)chemical molecules usually comprises a fermentative or bio-catalytic production followed by many concentration and purification steps. Technologies and methods for concentration and purification are in many cases originating from the chemical engineering. They are designed to suite the demands of fossil-based production processes.
During the past 48 months, PRODIAS looked at more than 25 methods and technologies. Selected ones were further developed to enable and optimize their application in the area of industrial biotechnology and to develop and optimize machinery and apparatuses.

The project started in 2015. After four years of trustful and successful cooperation the PRODIAS partners Alfa Laval (SE), BASF SE (GER), Cargill R&D Centre Europe (BE), enviplan (GER), GEA Niro PT (NL), Imperial College London (U.K.) University of Kaiserslautern (GER), UPM (SF), and XENDO (NL) now can be proud of their achievements:

• Demonstrators (TRL 7-9) ready to be commercially used.
o Low energy, high performance disc-stack centrifuges for biomass separation
o Freeze concentration to be used for thermo-sensitive dissolved compounds, e.g. Enzymes
o Novel SMB-EBA combination as hybrid process including advanced control software
o High performance (titer) fermentation of small organic pre-cursor molecules

• R&D standards ready to be used in bioprocess development:
o Flocculation inside disc-stack centrifuges
o Free (special) organic acid crystallization
o Combining Extraction / IEX & bi-polar Electrodialysis to purify chemical value-chain molecules produced by fermentation
o NEAT: Novel method using NMR spectroscopy to predict properties relevant for downstream processing of complex poorly specified mixtures.
PRODIAS made innovation a reality. The Project led to a substantially improved performance in fermentation and downstream processing by a significant increase in productivity and efficiency, lower energy consumptions and a decrease of investment costs. Resource and energy efficiency has a tremendous environmental impact by the reduction of GHG emissions, water usage and raw material.

But, what made PRODIAS a success? Amongst other factors, the project set-up was the basis for the achieved results. Most work packages were structured in such a way that minimum two partners needed to cooperate to fulfil the tasks. This structure demanded and allowed for intense discussions and thereby promoted the early identification of potential conflicts of interest. Moreover, well established communication channels and a content-wise and administrative coaching by the coordinator contributed to a smooth and concentrated work focused on results. Finally, PRODIAS partners were working in a trustful atmosphere that proved their slogan: One Goal, One Project, One Team!

The developed methods and technologies are ready for cross-sectorial use in different industrial sectors. Thus, the project will increase the competitiveness of renewable-based chemical products while at the same time preserving jobs or reinvesting in new employment opportunities. PRODIAS improved the innovation capacity and enabled the knowledge integration by sharing knowledge and cost between the cross sectorial partners. Via cooperation, the project deepened the understanding of downstream processes and accelerated the adaption, transfer and take up of new technologies.
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