We have built a fully automatic, continuous flow test bed to evaluate our hydrothermal process and to determine the types of chemicals that can be produced. The results of a two year study have shown that commercially valuable chemicals can be produced from our process using sugars, starches and agricultural products such as beets, hay, sugar cane and corn stover. The chemicals produced, in order of highest yield to lowest yield, are hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), acetol (hydroxyacetone), 3-methyl-1,2-cyclopentenedione, acetone, acetaldehyde, trimethylamine and acetic acid. Sugars and sugar beets also produced furfural.
Our patented process uses catalyst and high water temperatures to dissolve the biomass and produce the chemical products. The ability to produce higher value chemicals, as compared to lower value fuels, greatly enhances the commercial viability of our process. Several of the chemicals that are produced can be marketed directly as green, renewable consumer products or modified for that market. These include acetone, acetol and HMF. These three products also have industrial markets. Acetaldehyde, acetic acid and trimethylamine have existing markets as industrial chemicals while 3-methyl-1,2-cyclopentenedione can be used to make high octane fuels or it can be used in the plastics industry.
The process was found to have high yields with over 50% of the biomass being converted to useful products. The process uses materials, equipment and techniques already applied in the petrochemicals industry which will help when scaling up to commercial production levels. We’re currently looking for partners that can help us commercialize our process.