BBE decarbonization project receives $3mil grant from Department of Energy

September 27, 2021

BBE faculty member Dr. Shri Ramaswamy and his team received a Department of Energy grant totaling $3.05 mil. The grant will be used to develop new methods to improve and decarbonize the water removal process in pulp and paper manufacturing, as well as other biomaterial manufacturing. The project team includes various partners including the national lab (Savannah River National Lab), electric utilities research organization (Electric Power Research Institute ,EPRI), process intensification institute (Rapid Process Intensification and Deployment Institute, RAPID), and pulp and paper industry (including Liberty Paper, WestRock, SAPPI with operations in Minnesota), and supplier industry members (including PSC, Siemens, PSE).

Current, conventional drying processes in process industries, in general, are inefficient and use a significant amount of fossil-based energy. Ramaswamy and his team will work on the development of a hybrid drying approach that incorporates auxiliary energy inputs such as electromagnetic energy, acoustic energy with the conventional drying process to improve the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of conventional processes. The overall scientific goal in this work is the effective removal of free and bound water in hygroscopic, porous biomaterials such as pulp and paper by leveraging the synergies between the various transport processes.

Using paper and board as an example, the goal of the project is to decrease the total amount of energy needed in the drying process, decrease the operating costs and reduce the carbon intensity.   

“If this works for paper, this could be applied to other biomaterials,” said Ramaswamy. “This technology could be used in the manufacture of building materials, corn, biomass, polymers”, processes that requires moisture removed from the material could possibly benefit from this technology.  

The proposed integrated, hybrid drying system has the potential impact to achieve a significant reduction in energy consumption, operating costs, and carbon intensity. This technology has the potential to help improve the economic viability and environmental sustainability of U.S. manufacturing sector.