Manufacturing process optimization for food and biosolids waste conversion to valuable products

Principal investigator: Ross Lee, Justinus Satrio

University: Villanova University

Industry partners: SoMax BioEnergy

Villanova University (VU) and SoMax BioEnergy propose a collaborative R&D project in advancing the technoeconomic profiles of the manufacturing process of converting organic wastes from municipalities or organic-waste producers (farms and agricultural product processing facilities) into useful valuable bio-based products.

The goals of this project are twofold: 1) Establish optimized hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) process conditions, which will convert waste water treatment solids and food waste into hydrochars and liquid by-products, which are suitable as solid fuel or as intermediate feedstocks for further upgrading into value added products, specifically for sorption materials to be used for water and gas cleaning treatments. 2) Develop upgrading processes for improving the capabilities of hydrochar as selective sorption materials for water and gas purification applications.

Results will be accomplished through systematic laboratory and demonstration plant scale studies using sewage sludge and biosolids as material feedstocks from local PA wastewater management facilities and using food waste samples from either VU campus dining facilities and/or supplied from a local waste management company serving greater Philadelphia region. Experimental studies will be performed by two graduate engineering students under the direction of PI Dr. Ross A. Lee and co-PI Dr. Justinus Satrio in Villanova’s Sustainable Engineering and Chemical Engineering programs respectively. The primary output of this work would be to further understand the critical process parameters to consistently produce commercial scale hydrochars with maximized value across a whole systems perspective for the intended use. The optimized process conditions will be implemented at the commercial scale HTC operation at the Phoenixville, PA waste water treatment plant. The broad impacts of this work will be to improve the social, technical, environmental and political dimensions of the current state of waste generation and disposal with clear demonstrated economic benefits and reduction of issues in each of these areas.