Big strides are about to be made to scale up and improve production of entirely bio-based carbon black, which has characteristics to mimic Industrial Carbon Black.
The successful creation in 2018 of such “green” carbon black from pyrolysis oil, in turn made from solid biomass, sparked a wave of excitement and raised hopes for rapid industrial scale up.
However, sometimes one has to fight to realise a great idea. Today, the Bio4Energy scientists behind the invention finally have partners and funding in place to develop a pilot unit that will bring production to one kilogramme per hour, a year from now. While this may seem insignificant, it is not.
The industrial chemical and bulk commodity carbon black forms at the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products. It is widely used as a reinforcing filler in rubber products, such as car tyres, and as a colour pigment. It “possibly” causes cancer in humans, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, as a consequence of people inhaling dust containing carbon black fragments.
Entirely petrochemical-free process
To make bio-based carbon black, the scientists have to heat the pyrolysis oil to very high temperatures, 1300 degrees Celsius, before the resulting carbon-like product can be separated from the gaseous stream at cooling. The energy for heating this process will come from so-called electrofuels from renewable sources.
“This is another important aspect of the pilot project: It will make the entire [production] process fossil free”, Wiinikka said.
He added that research is starting in parallel to refine the pyrolysis oil—made from wood, woody residue or another type of biomass—so as to lower its content of oxygen, in the hope of increasing the feedstock-to-end product ratio.
"It is important to mention that this whole line of research could only ever launch thanks to Bio4Energy, through the funding from the Thermochemical Platform", Wiinikka said.