A new pilot biomass processing plant has been opened at the University of Sydney. The plant will allow experimentation with the variables of biofuel production, with the aim of finding commercially viable processing methods.
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer from the School of Chemistry said that "We’re looking at increasingly important methods that produce fuel from whole plants, including stems and leaves, and not just seeds. Sources might include sugarcane bagasse or forestry by-products. The energy required to produce biofuels also needs to be reduced. Our plant employs heat exchangers, able to recover and reuse the majority of the energy expended in the production process."
The new plant provides flexibility in the choice of operating conditions to enable researchers to develop optimal methods. They can experiment with different production methods relatively cheaply and quickly. Researchers will also look at how biomass can be used to more efficiently produce chemicals used in food, fragrances and plastics production.