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The University of Southampton
Engineering

Bioenergy

Biogas offers a number of pathways to low carbon combustion. Food waste digestion and algal culture ponds in particular are technologies which our research is helping to convert to industrial scale.

A key premise of a sustainable system is that there is no such thing as a waste stream. Processes are connected and streams which would have been previously considered as landfill bi-products are now becoming fuel feed-stocks. Our work in food waste digestion is such a case, where following EU legislation (NO biodegreadeable to landfill regs) source separated food waste provides such an opportunity.

Biofuel production as a crop faces a number of well established challenges to its sustainability credentials. Land is potentially diverted away from food production and crops such as palm oil are associated with destruction of the rainforest. Crops such as Jatropha claim to deliver oil production on marginal land (in terms of water and /or nutritional content) and so therefore do not compete for food production. However, the yields may be far less than that achieved under optimum growth conditions. 3rd generation biofuels, in the form of algal culture ponds or reactors, offer an alternative with none of the issues which plague current biofuel options such as coppicing of willow, palm oil or jatropha.

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Algal Facilities
Anaerobic Digestion Facilities
Analytical facilities

Algal Biomass

Our facilities include those that we operate in conjunction Withpartners in Spain. At the experimental site in Almeria we have two large-scale (100 m2) raceway reactors and  our research partners the University of Almeria have an extensive range of photobioreactors up to production scale.

At our laboratories in Southampton we have a 320 -litre photobioreactor and facilities for producing smaller

batches of different algal strains for experimental purposes. Work on the kinetics of algal growth is carried

out using our instrumented lab-scale photobioreactors.

Anaerobic digestion

Our dedicated laboratory facility for anaerobic digestion research houses over 250 digesters of different types and sizes from 0.5 to 100 litres. These are used in simple batch tests to determine biochemical methane potential (BMP) of different substrates and for continuous feed kinetic studies to derive design and operational data. Digester types include: continuously stirred tank reactors (CSTR), Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket

(UASB) reactors, anaerobic filters,and submergedanaerobic membrane bioreactors (SAMBR).

These operate over a range of temperatures from ambient to thermophilic using a variety of substrates

from dedicated energy crops to solid wastes and process wastewaters.

Analytical Facilities

Extensive facilities including - gas chromatography, metrohm ion chromatograph, HPLC with electrochemical and UV detectors, GC mass spectrometer, flash EA elemental analyser, Atomic fluorescence, absorption and NIR spectrophotometers, fluorometer, TOC/TON analyser, calorimeters.

Fermentation

To support our work on second generation liquid biofuels production from waste feedstock we have small - scale fermentation equipment with associated downstream processing. This includes Applikon 3 and 5 - litre fermenters with bioconsoles, AKTA cross - flow membrane filtration test rig, Millipore flat plate cross flow filtration system, PAL reverse osmosis unit and a range of equipment for hybridisation studies and enzymic hydrolysis.

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