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Univ. Bioenergy Lab to Develop Low Carbon Technologies

Energy lab drawing (Aston Univ.)

Artist's drawing of proposed bioenergy lab (Aston Univ.)

Aston University in Birmingham, U.K. plans to build new £16.5 million ($26.7 million) engineering laboratories to develop and demonstrate renewable low carbon technologies including a biomass fueled power plant. The facility (artist’s drawing pictured right)  is scheduled to open on the Aston campus in October 2012.

The labs include photo-bioreactors harnessing algae, and a 0.4MW small-scale industrial power plant fueled by biomass. The plant is expected to generate heat and power from biomass using algae, sewage sludge, wood, and agricultural waste as feedstocks.

The facility will also generate biomass by-products including hydrogen power for low carbon vehicles or fuel cells and biochar for use as an agricultural fertiliser and a source for decentralised hydrogen production. Biochar is a fine-grained, highly porous form of charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.

A long-term research goal is to create a series of small-scale industrial power plants around Birmingham. These power plants could divert biodegradable waste away from landfills and incineration, and feed energy back into the U.K.’s national power grid. The city of Birmingham itself aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 60% by 2026.

Funding for the labs is provided by the European Regional Development Fund, Advantage West Midlands — a regional economic development organization, and Aston University.  The European Bioenergy Research Institute, located at Aston, will run the facility.

Read more: U.K. University Hosts Environmental Tech Training Center

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