The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), which has sites in Teesside and County Durham, is leading a European collaborative project that aims to turn food waste into raw materials for manufacturing and fuel.
The centre, part of the Government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, will be responsible for the technical aspects of the PlasCarb project, which will see biogas generated from anaerobic digestion transformed into renewable hydrogen and graphitic carbon through a low energy microwave plasma process.
Graphitic carbon has been identified as one of Europe’s economically critical raw materials and one of strategic performance in the development of future emerging technologies.
The substance forms the basis for graphite, the global market for which is worth more than €10bn per year, aND graphene, a so-called ‘wonder material’ which, being incredibly strong yet light, can be used in everything from tennis rackets to electrical circuits.
Hydrogen, meanwhile, is already used in significant quantities by industry and is recognised for its potential as a future transport fuel within a low carbon economy.
The CPI’s infrastructure allows the process to be trialled and optimised at pilot production scale, with a future technology roadmap devised for commercial scale manufacturing.
The latter stages of the project will be dedicated to market uptake through the development of an economically sustainable business strategy, a financial risk assessment of the project results and a flexible financial model.
An analysis will be conducted and it is hoped the process will have economic and employment benefits throughout Europe.
Several post-project markets - including food waste management and high value graphite - have also been defined.
Dr Keith Robson, director of formulation and flexible manufacturing at CPI, said: “PlasCarb will provide an innovative solution to the problems associated with food waste, which is one of the biggest challenges that the European Union faces in the strive towards a low carbon economy.
“The project will not only seek to reduce food waste but also use new technological methods to turn it into renewable energy resources which themselves are of economic value, and all within a sustainable manner.”
PlasCarb is a three-year collaborative project, co-funded under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and is set to further reinforce Europe’s leading position in environmental technologies and innovation in high value carbon.
The consortium behind the initiative is comprised of eight partners from five European countries.