Bio4Energy have succeeded in making a bio-based equivalent of Carbon Black, one of the most widely used carbon-based industrial chemicals. Carbon Black forms when certain heavy petroleum products are incompletely burned, and there is an established process for making Carbon Black from fossil oil products in the petrochemical industry. The International Agency for Research on Cancer states that this material, which takes the form of a colloid, could “possibly” induce cancer and cause respiratory problems in humans.
To the best of the Bio4Energy scientists' knowledge, the "green" equivalent of Carbon Black they have made is the first ever to be developed from pyrolysis oil.
In fact, the researchers at RISE Energy Technology Centre (RISE ETC), at Piteå, Sweden—part of the platform Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies—used pyrolysis oil made from renewable solid biomass in a high-temperature process developed in-house.
In experiments mimicking the petrochemical industry’s main production process for making Carbon Black, they sprayed pyrolysis oil into a reactor at high temperatures and the resulting material—that is, the “green” Carbon Black—was separated from the gaseous stream at cooling.
Whereas the maximum yield by mass of input feedstock was modest—10.6 and 20.6 per cent by mass of fed pyrolysis oil and of fed carbon, respectively, at 1300 degrees Celsius—the researchers are optimistic that more impressive yields may be obtained once the process has been brought to scale. They also point to ongoing efforts by the global biomass research community to lower the oxygen content of the pyrolysis oil, as a promising sign that the proposed “green” feedstock will be adapted for the sake of rendering the total process more efficient.
“This type of product could become a competitive alternative to crude oil, if we are talking about production from pyrolysis oil for the sake of making a bulk product”, Marklund said.
Main uses for Carbon Black are as a filler material or supporting agent in car tyres and as a thickener. More distant yet promising prospects for using “green” Carbon Black could be as a component of graphene or in electrochemical applications.
Will Bio4Energy at RISE ETC be part of efforts, in cooperation with industry, to attempt a scale up to production of greater volumes of “green” Carbon Black?
“We absolutely believe so. [We are aiming to launch] the first pilot project in the second half of next year”, according to Marklund.
A first article in the scientific journal Green Chemistry illustrates the Bio4Energy researchers' breakthrough: Structure of carbon black continuously produced from biomass pyrolysis oil and the authors are acknowledged as follows: Pál Tóth, Therese Vikström, Roger Molinder and Henrik Wiinikka, all at the RISE Energy Technology Center.