Materials Handling & Solids Characterization

Achieving the best process economics.

Our ultimate goal is to optimize processes to avoid problems during scale-up. During downstream processes, we focus on the specific structures and properties for potential end-user applications. This approach not only helps with quality control, but also allows us to develop the most economical processes.

High Solids Loading

Solids handling is one of the key risk drivers for scale up. We believe it is critical to obtain a fundamental understanding of the biomass flow properties under various unit operations to evaluate the requirements of mixing and handling techniques for high solid loadings.

A researcher operating a bioreactor in ABPDU's lab

Robust Process Design

At ABPDU, we utilize extensive rheology to design processes that scale well. The information we obtain helps us balance process economics and quality.

  • Is a fed batch process better than a batch process?
  • How small a particle size is optimum?
  • Can you reduce capital expenditure by using a smaller reactor?
  • What type of pump can we use and what would be its specification?

Materials Characterization & Solids Handling Options

Measuring Viscosity

Increasing the concentration of the biomass solids during biochemical conversion has a large potential in reducing production costs. These concentrated biomass slurries have highly viscous, non-Newtonian behavior that poses several technical challenges to the conversion process.

Understanding Solids to Liquids Behavior

The reduced presence of water exponentially increases viscosity of biomass slurries, which poses a number of mass transfer challenges, especially affecting the capability of the catalyst. As biomass is hydrolyzed, absorbed water is released into the newly forming aqueous phase, followed by a drop in viscosity. In very low moisture conditions, however, biomass behaves like a powder, making application of enzymes challenging. Understanding changes in rheology of high solid slurries provides useful insights to improve polymer breakdown and sugar production.

Optimizing Enzyme Activity at High Solids Loading

Enzymatic hydrolysis at high solids loadings is key to the scale-up of biochemical conversion processes because of potentially higher sugar and ethanol titers and low hydraulic loads. However, high solids loading can result in lower conversion of glucan and xylan into fermentable sugars. We use rheology data as a tool to optimize enzyme dosage amount and timing to achieve a highly productive saccharification process.