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PowerPlatform: Establishment of platform infrastructure for highly selective electrochemical conversions

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PERFORM (PowerPlatform: Establishment of platform infrastructure for highly selective electrochemical conversions)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-12-31

In the PERFORM project we are targeting two global trends:

-A shift towards bio-based feedstocks

During this project we will be applying a multi-level approach including a combined integration between electrification, reduction of process complexity, avoiding the use of co-reactants through system integration, innovation in processes and bio-based use of feedstocks, as well as the development of a flexible PowerPlatform pilot plant platform. The project will result in the development, design and construction of the flexible integrated PowerPlatform pilot plant (TRL 6), demonstrating the use of electrochemistry and advanced technologies for efficient and selective conversions of biomass molecules to building blocks for high performance applications (e.g. polymers / coatings / adhesives).The project will allow fast scale-up to commercial implementation.

PERFORM is expected to contribute to technology development to reduce the environmental impact of the chemical industry and to reduce CO2 emissions from the production of chemicals. As we continue to develop towards a bio-based economy over the coming decades, the biorefinery will take on an increasingly important role. It will enable Europe to convert biomass into the marketable products needed to meet the demands of European society in the areas of food, chemicals, materials and pharmaceuticals. The challenge of these developments, amongst others, are changes in raw material and expansion of the product range, requiring the need of new process concepts.The future of sustainable society and economy is largely based on realizing technologies which use local resources (including renewable energy) and allow to shift from large centralized productions to distributed models (at regional level). There are many benefits for society in this new model of production, from a better integration at territory level with positive impact on jobs, to lower costs, risks and environmental impact of transporting chemicals, creation of symbiosis models, reduction of the impact of large production plants, etc.

Overall objectives are:

-Development and construction of a highly versatile and modular TRL6 PowerPlatform for the valorization of biomass
-Demonstration of the improved flexibility without major losses in the overall process performance
-Dissemination and exploitation of the major innovation outcomes by providing open-access infrastructure.
Main achievements:

-New analytical and pretreatment techniques have been developed for feedstock analysis to provide high purity glucose.
-Various new electrocatalysts for both lines have been prepared and tested.
-Milestone 2 “Synthesized and tested electrodes >10, M18” has been reached but the work continues to get higher efficiency materials.
-Process design specifications have been determined.
-Reactor modelling, design and sizing have been completed. Reactor construction is almost complete. Scaling up of the reactor systems will be started soon.
-An extensive study of down stream processing has been taking place. Proof of concept and lab scale optimization has been achieved.
-First tests with the produced maleic acid and mock-up adipic acid solution samples have been performed.
-Process flow diagrams and mass and energy balances of the pilot operation have been started.
-Life cycle assessment has been started and preliminary technoeconomic analysis has been done.
-Dissemination of the project is achieved through different channels such as project website, Linkedin, Twitter and Youtube.
Progress beyond the state of art and expected results:

Prior to the PERFORM project no proper analytical techniques where in place for detailed analysis of product composition. In task 1.1 of PERFORM these analytical methods are developed. Based on this information, required pretreatment steps are developed (task 1.2) to produce feedstock suited for electrocatalytic conversion. Clearly this has relevance beyond the PERFORM project; analysis and pretreatment of the glucose product from PERFORM is crucial for its valorization. Before this project catalysts only for corresponding non-electrocatalytic operations were available. Totally new generation catalysts and electrodes have been developed and the expected result until the end of the project is to scale them up to the size for prototype experimentation. The electrochemical conversion technology applied in both lines 1 & 2, to produce maleic acid, valeric acid and adipic acid has never been demonstrated at this scale of TRL5-6 which is the target of this project. This will be potentially a next step towards commercialization of this novel routes. The downstream technologies are being currently developed for separation of products from dilute electrolyte streams. Not only these technologies are novel, they also will provide a general strategy towards downstream processing of products generated during electrolysis. Additionally, the project aims at development of an economically feasible process, therefore, both electrochemical conversion and performance of DSP will be optimized to meet the project targets. The LCA and TEA analysis is of fundamental importance to provide accurate information for what concerns the future markets that the product could enter and the possibility of improvement, indicating where, how and how much the product should get better in order to find the same applications of the traditional chemical products produced from fossil source.

The potential impact and wider societal implications of the project so far are related to the contribution to develop new materials and processes which play a crucial role to establish new and innovative low carbon routes for chemical production which go beyond the use of fossil fuels by integrating renewable energy sources and alternative (bio-based) carbon sources. This will also contribute to meet the recent legislative evolution in EU countries in terms of expected increase in the production and usage of renewable and sustainable chemical products.