An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation occurs as a result of a chemical reaction which transfers electrons or hydrogen from a substance to an oxidizing agent.
Bioplastics are a particular type of plastic derived from renewable biomass sources including vegetable fats and oils, corn starch or micro biota. BEACON has the facilities to extract lactic acid from perennial rye grass for its conversion to polylactic acid – a type of bioplastic.
Biofuels are fuels produced from plant material (biomass). They are increasingly popular over fossil fuels to their environmental impact compared to non-renewable resources such as crude oil. Biofuels include biodiesel made from rapeseed oil and other plant oils, and bioethanol made from the fermentation of sugar in the biomass of energy crops.
Bioethanol is a fuel used as a petrol substitute for road transport vehicles. Bioethanol is largely produced through sugar fermentation using biomass from energy crops. Energy crops are grown specifically for this function and can often yield sugar levels equal to that of the sugar cane plant. Ethanol is a clear colourless liquid, biodegradable, with low toxicity and causes little environmental pollution if spilt.
Biomass is any biological material derived from living or recently living organisms. Biomass deriving from plant or plant-based material is known as lignocellulosic biomass.
A biorefinery is a facility integrating equipment and processes for the conversion of biomass feedstock into a host of valuable chemicals and energy with minimal waste and emissions. The core technology is a unique thermal reactor devoted to sequential, linear biomass fractionation through steam auto-hydrolysis.
Biorefining is the process of converting biomass as a feedstock into a variety of products. Biomass has a variety of components including lignin, cellulose, extractives etc which can be converted into biofuels, bioplastics, and biocomposite materials amongst others. A biorefinery takes advantage of the properties in biomass to allow for the production of these products.
Carbon Neutral refers to the attainment of zero carbon emissions through balancing a measured amount of carbon released in a process with an equivalent quantity offset – or in some cases purchasing enough carbon credits to counterbalance the difference. Carbon neutrality is used in the context of processes which release carbon dioxide (CO2), these often include transportation, energy production, and industrial processes.
The centrifuge is a piece of process equipment used to separate immiscible liquids using centrifugation (a separation process which uses the action of centrifugal force to promote accelerated settling of particles in a solid-liquid mixture).
Chlorophyll is a natural green pigment found in cyanobacteria and the chloroplasts of algae and plants. Chlorophyll is one of only a few natural green pigments, and as such is registered as a food additive for its colour properties in E140. In culinary use chlorophyll is most commonly used in pasta and absinthe.
Complex carbohydrates refers to carbohydrates with a chemical structure that consists of three or more sugars, usually linked together to form a chain. These sugar chains are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Due to their complex structure, this type of carbohydrate takes longer to digest and don’t raise the sugar levels in the blood as fast as simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are used in the body as a fuel and contribute significantly to the production of energy.
Cross Flow Filtration
Cross-flow filtration is a type of filtration where the majority of the flow travels tangentially across the surface of a filter, rather than into a filter. Cross-flow filtration’s main advantage over dead-end filtration is that the “filter cake” is mostly washed away during the filtration process, increasing the time that the filter unit can remain operational in a single session.
Generally categorised as woody or herbaceous plants, an energy crop is a plant grown as a low-cost and low-maintenance harvest used to make biofuels. In the commercial sense, energy crops are typically a densely planted, high yielding crop species, where the end product will be burnt to generate power.
An enzyme is a substance produced by a living organism which acts as a catalyst to bring about a specific biochemical reaction. Most enzymes are proteins with large complex molecules whose action depends on their particular molecule shape. Some enzymes control reactions within cells and some, such as the enzymes involved with digestion, control the reactions outside cells.
Fermentation is an anaerobic cellular process whereby organic substances such as yeast and bacteria are converted into simpler compounds, and chemical energy is produced. Fermentation is often used to convert sugars into acids, gases and or alcohol.
A fructan is a polymer of fructose molecules. Fructans with a short chain length are known as “fructtooligosaccharides”. Fructans occur in foods such as agave, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, garlic, and onions. In animal fodder, fructans also appear in grass, with dietary implications for horses and other equidae.
A hammer mills is a primary processing piece of equipment with the main purpose of shredding or crushing aggregate material into smaller pieces.
Lipids are a group of naturally occurring molecules which include fats, waxes, sterols, and fat soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E, and K. The primary biological functions of lipids include the storing of energy, signalling, and acting as structural components of cell membranes. Lipids have an active application in the cosmetic, food and nano technology industries.
Lactic acid is a chemical compound that plays a role in various biochemical processes. Using a number of secondary processing equipment lactic acid can be converted for use in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and bio plastic sectors.
Life Cycle Analysis
Life cycle analysis (LCA) is a systematic approach to identifying, measuring, documenting and interpreting the environmental consequences of a product. An LCA can look at the entire life cycle of a product from raw material extraction through to end of life disposal, and all of the stages in between, including transportation.
Low Carbon Economy
A low carbon economy is an economy that has a minimal output of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the environment biosphere, but specifically in reference to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
Pasteurization is the heating of a sample followed by rapid cooling with the primary objective of sterilization without changing the chemical structure of the sample.
Platform chemicals are compounds which can be used to produce a broad range of technologically relevant substances.
In many cases biomass cannot be used directly, so to improve access to key molecules and compounds, a number of primary processes must be used. The initial phase of processing includes the use of mechanical and physiochemical approaches such as chopping, hammering and pelleting.
Reverse osmosis is a water purification technology that uses a semipermeable membrane. The membrane technology is not a proper filtration method. During reverse osmosis, an applied pressure is used to overcome osmotic pressure, a colligative property that is driven by chemical potential. Reverse osmosis can remove many types of molecules and ions from solutions, and is used in both industrial processes and the production of potable water.
The screw press is a type of machine press where the ram is driven up and down by a screw. A screw press can be used to separate liquids from solids. Within BEACON the screw press is incorporated into the integrated wet biomass processing line. The screw press is used to separate the “green juice” for secondary processing from the grass fibre.
Once the initial processing has taken place it is then possible to use biological and chemical methods to convert the raw biomass into high value end products. In many cases enzymes and microorganisms are used to help reduce complex molecules from the plants into simple building blocks such as sugars. These solutions are then converted into chemicals using microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and fungi. Methods then need to be developed to isolate these molecules. This is where technologies such as supercritical fluids extraction, centrifugation, and membrane systems are used to help purify the desired outputs.
Succinic acid is a white odourless diprotic acid traditionally extracted from petroleum, but can now be sourced using biomass from plants such as perennial rye grasses. Succinic acid has various applications including use in plastics, textiles, pharmaceutical drugs, food additives and solvents.
Ultra filtration is a variety of membrane filtration in which forces such as pressure or concentration gradients leads to separation through a semipermeable membrane. The separations functionality of the BEACON facility includes a comprehensive array of both pilot and laboratory scale continuous centrifugal and cross-flow filtration systems suitable for a wide range of biorefining applications.