Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


HYDELTECH Report Summary

Project ID: 321741
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: Turkey

Final Report Summary - HYDELTECH (Synthesis of Biomass Sourced Value Added Chemicals by Hydrothermal Electrolysis Technique)

Rising costs and decreasing availability of raw materials together with much concern about environmental pollution characterize today’s society. Consequently there is a considerable emphasis on the recovery, recycling and upgrading of wastes and changing to renewable resources as feedstock. This is particularly valid for the forms of biomass in which wastes, effluents, residues, and by-products can be recovered and can often be upgraded to higher value and specialty chemicals chain as the chemical industry accelerated the development of sustainable manufacturing processes.

This research activity aims to demonstrate a novel environmentally friendly process called ‘Hydrothermal Electrolysis’ by which organic materials in aqueous solution (with any suitable electrode) can be electrochemically converted into other valuable chemicals using only subcritical water as a solvent.

The main goal of this project is to decompose biomass into its building blocks and then convert it into high value chemicals which have a huge potential to be used in different fields such as pharmaceuticals, intermediates for synthesis of new chemicals, coating, food industry, detergents, cosmetics, etc. by hydrothermal electrolysis in sub-critical water reaction medium. The state of the art is to use water as a solvent in near critical or critical temperature instead of toxic, organic solvents and apply current to decompose biomass into value-added products.

Hydrothermal electrolysis is normally carried out at a temperature range of 200-300 Celsius and 5-10 MPa reaction pressures and does not require the use of any catalysts, leading to a cost effective process. Additionally, hydrothermal electrolysis technique minimizes the amount of energy consumed for electrolysis with remarkable properties of subcritical water. At the end of this research, it will advance the application of electrolysis in subcritical water reaction medium to synthesize value-added chemicals with high yields from organic wastes efficiently and environmentally friendly manner.

The goal can be expressed in more details by listing the following objectives:

• Design and simulation of hydrothermal electrolysis equipment for the degradation of biomass into value-added chemicals
• Decomposition of biomass into building-block chemicals by hydrothermal electrolysis technique
• Synthesis of value-added chemicals from biomass building-blocks
• Process scale-up

In order to achieve these objectives;

• Custom made electrodes and specifically manufactured reaction vessel (due to very corrosive reaction environment), direct current/voltage generator, pressure control system, and temperature control system were successfully adapted to the reactor system used at Dr. Yuksel’s laboratory.

• A novel hydrothermal electrolysis system has been designed, simulated and built by our research group for the production of value-added chemicals from biomass by using subcritical water as a reaction environment. Commercially available software packages have been used for designing of the electrodes and the parts of the reactor such as condenser, mixer, heater, etc.

• The modeling of HYDELTECH was established for both 2D and 3D geometries. Non-Isothermal mixing model was used to investigate the temperature distribution in HYDELTECH reactor system in a flow regime that depended on the rotation angular velocity of the agitator. The simulation was investigated with the study of Frozen Rotor in a space of 2D and 3D geometries. 2D simulations gave an idea about the flow stream and heat distribution in a short time of solution. 3D modeling was also investigated but it took approximately 3 days to solve the iterated equations. Temperature distribution within the mixing fluid and the reactor was solved with a time dependent solution step. The heating was applied from the jacked of HYDELTECH reactor and temperature distribution within the reactor was recorded with respect to time.

• In addition to the design and simulation of the hydrothermal electrolysis system, for the second task that is the decomposition of biomass into building-block chemicals by this novel technique, determination of the reaction conditions and development of the most suitable method for the analysis of the products are completed. Identification of the reaction mechanism and examining the effects of different reaction parameters such as temperature, pressure, electrolysis current/voltage, etc. were done.

• For the product analysis, different methods were applied. HPLC analysis of the organic acids, saccharides, furfurals, etc. in the liquid phase was done after each experiment. Liquid products were also analyzed by GC-MS with Restek Stabilwax-DA 30m x 0.32 mm x 1 um column. The total organic carbon in the product solution was monitored by Shimadzu TOC-VCPH analyzer. Solid products were characterized by SEM-EDX and FTIR. Moreover, gas products were collected to special gasbags after each experiment and analyzed by GC-TCD for the quantification of CO2, CO, CH4, C2H4, H2, etc.

• During the last 24 months (second reporting period) of this project, a novel hydrothermal electrolysis system that was designed and built by our research group during the first reporting period has been used to produce value-added chemicals such as levulinic acid, 5-HMF, furfural, etc. from microcrystalline cellulose by passing constant direct current through the electrodes under hydrothermal conditions.

• Levulinic acid, 5-HMF and furfural were selected as the super commodity chemicals from produced building blocks. In order to produce high yield of levulinic acid, 5-HMF and furfural from microcrystalline cellulose, reaction conditions such as pressure, temperature, acid concentration applied current/voltage and reaction time were investigated in detail and conditions were optimized.

• The results were statistically analyzed by ANOVA. Moreover, kinetic study of the desired high value chemicals was done.

• With a lab scale system used in this research activity, for the hydrothermal electrolysis of biomass can be carried out with a specially designed cylindrical electrode made of titanium. The anode has 12 mm diameter and it is 94 mm in length. The cathode, also made of titanium, is the cylindrical reactor wall with an outer diameter of 76 mm and it is 165 mm in length. Direct current can be finely tuned from a few A to 6 A.

• The hydrothermal electrolysis system built in this research activity can be modified to use layer by layer electrode to increase the reaction area. However, this modification is not technically and economically feasible due to the small size of the research scale reactor. It has been determined that a hydrothermal electrolysis system with layered electrode would be technically feasible and batch system should be the choice for this application.

• The hydrothermal electrolysis system can be modified by a platinum electrode instead of titanium anode. The system would be more corrosive resistant with a platinum electrode.

During the projects several companies have shown interest in possible commercialization of our research activity. We are in the process of testing the finals products. After that we intent to license the technology to these companies provided that international patents protect intellectual property. We are in the process of preparing an international patent application related to our research. More information related to HYDELTECH project can be found on project website by following the link Questions and inquiries should be sent to Dr. Asli YUKSEL at

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