THYME Proof of Concept and Follow on Funding 2020-2021

News

3rd August 2021

THYME Proof of Concept and Follow on Funding 2020-2021

As part of its follow-on funding THYME has recently awarded the three universities a further £1M to develop twenty projects (proof-of-concept and follow-on funding) with industry to drive growth in the region’s bioeconomy and help tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges. Each project features partners from two of the three THYME universities (Hull, York and Teesside), as well as an industrial partner.

 

Proof of Concept Projects

 

Characterisation of biochar and routes to industrial valorisation

·       Lead institution: Dr Tannaz Pak, Teesside University

·       Partner institution: Dr Mark Gronnow, Biorenewables Development Centre and Dr Duncan Macquarrie, The University of York

·       Industry partners: Scott Bros Ltd

This project will investigate biochar/residue samples collected from the industry partner that are produced using a range of pyrolysis techniques. The biochar/residue samples will be characterised to evaluate reuse options which could make pyrolysis much more cost effective and sustainable.

 

Development and techno-economic evaluation of citric acid production

·       Lead institution: Dr Deborah Rathbone, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Partner institution: Co-I: Dr Jamie Wood, The University of York and Dr Maria Dimopoulou, Teesside University

·       Industry partners: Natems Sugar

This project will progress towards commercial production and the feasibility of an integrated scaled-up system and economic viability of citric acid production.

 

Automated morphological characterisation of hyphae

·       Lead institution: Dr Maria Juanes, Teesside University

·       Partner institution: Dr Peter O’Toole, The University of York

·       Industry partners: Quorn

This project will look at increasing the production process and cultivation of microorganisms with the goal of producing edible biomass, commonly referred to as the formation of single-cell protein (SCP) like filamentous fungi (mycoprotein) e.g. Quorn.

 

Optimisation and scale up of a biocatalytic process

·       Lead institution: Dr Deborah Rathbone, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Partner institution: Prof Neil Bruce, University of York and Dr Maria Dimopoulou, Teesside University

·       Industry partners: Prozomix Ltd

This project will establish the feasibility of using a novel oxidase enzyme as an industrial biocatalyst and establish a new sustainable method that overcomes the current bottleneck for the preparation of tricin from waste crop residues.

 

Transforming furfual via a hydrogen cascade reaction to methyl furan

·       Lead institution: Dr Martin Taylor, Hull University

·       Partner institution: Dr Venkatesan Krishnan, Teesside University

·       Industry partners: Chemtrix BV

Furfural is an incredibly versatile platform molecule which is derived from various waste biomass sources. This project will demonstrate how nano engineered continuous flow microdevices can be utilised to overcome the deficiencies of current technologies. Devices will be produced using both conventional and novel 3D printing techniques to demonstrate scalability of the technology.

 

Bioengineering towards the development of a probiotic Lactobacillus strain

·       Lead institution: Professor Mosh Sarker, Teesside University

·       Partner institution: Dr Joe Bennett, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Industry partners: CHAIN Biotech

Previous work at Teesside University (TU) revealed that secretory products from probiotic bacteria have similar health beneficial properties to the live bacteria themselves. This project will examine recombinant expression of proteins of interest, using Lactobacillus as the host organism. Successful engineering of Lactobacillus will allow testing of this ‘enhanced’ probiotic bacterium and increased yields of target protein(s) that can be isolated as potential biologic supplements or drugs.

 

New fuels from sustainable biomass resources

·       Lead institution: Dr Mark Gronnow, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Partner institution: Dr Vicky Skoulou, Hull University

·       Industry partners: Drax

Drax Power generates 6% of the UK’s electricity demand, predominantly from sustainably sourced compressed wood pellets imported from North America. This project aims to support the upgrading of biogenic fibre to bring it in line with Drax’s emission limit and support a better understanding of how chlorine can be removed from short rotation energy crops to bring them into line with Drax’s emission limits.

 

Producing sustainable fine chemicals and fuels from photo-cracking plastic waste

·       Lead institution: Dr Grazio Francesconi, Hull University

·       Partner institution: Dr Deborah Rathbone, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Industry partners: Technical Absorbents

High value products such as fine chemicals and liquid fuel molecules will be liberated from waste plastic via photocatalysis reactions. This project will study various photocatalysts and reaction conditions to optimise the production of high-value products from the decomposition of a bio-derived polymer, polylactic acid (PLA).

 

Natural ANTimicrobials for biomass solid fuels

·       Lead institution: Dr Vicky Skoulou, Hull University

·       Partner institution: Peter Hurst, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Industry partners: BetaTec Hop Products Ltd

Biomass wastes have varying moisture content, depending on their production process, used for green energy and are usually stored prior to their conversion to a solid biofuel (pellet). The pelletisation is done in order to optimize the logistics of biomass-fuels. Hop extracts have never been tested before as a biomass natural preservative prior its use in bioenergy sector as optimised solid fuel. This is the innovation of this multidisciplinary approach of chemistry-chemical engineering and microbiology sectors. The project will showcase an alternative, unconventional market of a portion of the spent hop extracts produced by the increasing beer production as value added additive to the solid fuels of the next generation.

 

Improvement of an anaerobic digestion biogas production

·       Lead institution: Dr Dmitriy Kuvshinov, Hull University

·       Partner institution: Professor James Chong, University of York

·       Industry partners: GWE Ltd

This project addresses one of the options to improve an anaerobic digestion (AD) biogas generation efficiency by development, optimisation and application of a biogas upgrading process (BUP). A feasibility study of a BUP will be performed at lab scale with use of selected catalytic, microbial systems and processing conditions.

 

Supporting a circular economy in the textile industry

·       Lead institution: Dr Helen Carney, Teesside University

·       Partner institution: Professor Simon McQueen Mason, University of York

·       Industry partners: Stuff4Life

Textiles are the world’s fourth highest-pressure industry for the use of primary raw materials and water, after food, housing, and transport, and fifth for greenhouse gases emissions. This project aims to isolate bacterial strains that can manufacture cellulose to be used as a novel, bio-based textile and replace non-renewable textiles in the marketplace improving circular economy of the textile life cycle.

 

Water disinfection using microbubble technology

·       Lead institution: Dr Faik Hamad, Teesside University

·       Partner institution: Professor Seth Davis, University of York

·       Industry partners: Veolia Environmental Services Plc

This project will explore the effectiveness of recently developed microbubble technology as a disinfectant within water. The project will explore the effectiveness of using microbubble to disinfect water. This will produce sharp changes in pressure, temperature and produce a more reactive radical than what is currently produced from chlorine. If the micro-bubble process is validated at lab-scale the partners will seek further funding to demonstrate within a number of use-cases such as drinking water and aquaculture.

 

Providing bio-based ethylene oxide manufacture

·       Lead institution: Professor Gary Montague, Teesside University

·       Partner institution: Dr Vicky Skoulou, Hull University

·       Industry partners: NEPIC, CRODA, CPI, Ensus, Unilever, TVCA

Ethylene oxide (EO) is a key platform chemical in the chemical industry and feeds into 40 different industries. EO is vital for key industries such as: cosmetics, agricultural, automotive, construction, pharmaceutical, plastics and the wider chemical industry to manufacture solvents. This project will assess the technical and economic viability of bio-EO manufacture in the North East of England. CPI, Croda, Ensus, NEPIC, TVCA and Unilever are supporting the project and will assist by providing expertise that will help inform the estimations of design and operational costs of a bio-EO manufacturing facility.

 

Virtual Reality based training

·       Lead institution: Professor Gary Montague, Teesside University

·       Partner institution: Professor James Chong, University of York

·       Industry partners: Slingshot Stimulations, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechonolgy, CPI

Teesside University has been active in developing Virtual Reality based training within the first phase of THYME. Two translational research activities will begin to address what are far from insignificant technical challenges. If the methods can be proven in principle, they could be an avenue to moving from the current single unit demonstration, to bring the VR training potential to a position of potential industrial benefit addressing company needs.

 

Follow on Fund Projects

 

Use of polysaccharides of mesoporous carbons and vitamin encapsulation for food applications

·       Lead institution: Dr Peter Hurst, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Partner institution: Dr Duncan MacQuarrie, University of York and Dr Jibin He, Teesside University

·       Industry partners: Starbons Ltd

The University of York has developed Starbon technology for producing mesoporous carbons from starch which has been scaled up to multi kg pilot operations by the Biorenewables Development Centre. Work undertaken in the initial project successfully managed to damage high amylose starches using a ball mill. The knowledge already developed with other polysaccharides will assess their suitability in pilot scale manufacture of mesoporous carbons. This will provide a broader portfolio of materials and methods for Starbon Ltd to commercialise.

 

Biofuel and biochemical recovery through integrated membrane techniques

·       Lead institution: Dr Xuebin He, University of Hull

·       Partner institution: Dr Mark Gronnow, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Industry partners: Chip(s)Board, Nanjing Jiusi High-Tech Co

Widespread use of biofuels is inhibited by the significant energy burden of fuel recovery as part of the production process. This project aims to recover biofuels and bio-chemicals from the fermentation broth using integrated membrane technology. This integrated process can gain fuel-grade products with 50% energy savings, compared to conventional distillation operations as well as expanding the range of system trials including bio-chemicals like lactic acid.

 

Reclaiming lignin rich waste for next generation

·       Lead institution: Dr Vicky Skoulou, Hull University

·       Partner institution: Dr Peter Hurst, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Industry partners: Jesmond Engineering

ReFuel2 project will optimise the pelletisation process for the sludge-based materials for testing under thermochemical conditions. By engineering the pelletisation conditions such as feedstock blends, moisture and/or green binding agent, a marketable product will be generated for use in the residential heating sector or as low-cost alternative feedstock for energy production at an industrial scale, supporting the current local feedstock supply and demand.

 

Scaled down automated multiplexed micro-bioreactor systems

·       Lead institution: Professor Zulf Ali, Teesside University

·       Partner institution: Dr Rosie Nolan, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Industry partners: Unilever, Quorn, Ingenzia, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnology

Previously a single micro-bioreactor element system for culturing of cells (batch and continuous) for bioprocessing applications has been developed. This project aims to verify a prototype system with multiple micro-bioreactor elements to increase the amount and reduce the cost of acquiring valuable bioprocess data.  The scaled down multiplexed micro-bioreactor system will provide a low cost way of improving overall productivity, being predictive of a larger scale bioreactor.

 

Predicting aggregation potential and kinetics of industrially relevant proteins

·       Lead institution: Dr Safwan Akram, Teesside University

·       Partner institution: Professor Gavin Thomas, University of York

·       Industry partners: Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnology

This project aims to further develop a disruptive technology capable of significant process

improvements by increasing yield and decreasing downstream processing for industrial collaboration. This collaboration will exploit how microbes respond to the formation of protein aggregates during bioprocess conditions.

 

Two-stage distillation process for the extraction of high-value products from waste methyl ester

·       Lead institution: Dr Andrew Danby, Biorenewables Development Centre

·       Partner institution: Dr Dipesh Patel, Hull University

·       Industry partners: Argent Energy

Argent Energy is a producer of high grade, sustainable biodiesel from waste. This project builds on the findings of the initial project and will scale up the production and improve the process economics, compare the results obtained from two-stage molecular-fractional distillation, understand the effects of the distillation processes on sulphur-containing impurities and develop methods for their removal from final products.

The THYME project partners are