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Valorization of residual biomass

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Basic Information

  • UniversityUniversidad de Valladolid
  • Center
  • DepartmentChemical Engineering and Environmental Technology
  • Investigation GroupEnvironmental technology


VALORIZATION OF BIOMASS BIOFUELS DISCARDED FROM THE LIGNOCELLULOSIC WASTE BIOMASS PRE-TREATMENT TECHNOLOGIES, ENZYMATIC HYDROLYSIS AND BIOCONVERSION OF SUGARS INTO BIOFUELS. - Main researcher: Silvia Bolado Rodríguez - PhD students: Rodolfo Travaini and Judit Martín Juárez - In the last decades, the use of new fuel sources has been researched in detail due to the increasing environmental, economical and political problems related to the consumption of fossil fuels and its expected decrease in production. Among these new fuel sources under investigation, the biggest interest is focused on the renewable ones or biofuels, as a result of its disponibility and environmentally friendly nature. Lignocellulosic waste appears as a promising alternative raw material for biofuel production. This waste derives from industrial processes which use agricultural sources and sources from the harvest of conventional crops. They are abundant, they are not expensive and its valorization involves most of the times the mitigation of an environmental problem, since its accumulation often causes pollution due to hydrocarbons derived from its natural degradation. Alcohols such as ethanol or butanol, and biogasm can be produced from lignocellulosic materials. The use of lignocellulosic materials for biofuel production requires three steps most of the times. The first step is the pre-treatment, which is responsible for the opening of the biomass structure and for the detaching of carbohydrates polumers from lignin. The second one is the enzymatic hydrolysis to turn carbohydrates polymeters in monomeric fermentable sugars. Finally, the third step consists on the bioconversion of the hydrolyzes obtained in the target product (alcohols such as ethanol and butanol through alcoholic fermentation, ot methane through anaerobic digestion). - VALORIZATION OF AGRICULTURAL EFFLUENTS THROUGH THE USE OF MICROALGAE FOR THE OBTENTION OF BIO PRODUCTS. - Main researchers: Silvia Bolado Rodríguez - PhD student: Judit Martín Juárez and Dimas García - The purpose of this project is to obtain bioproducts from microalgae biomass through recyling sewage nutrients of agricultural processing to improve the economical and environmental sustainability of the process. The project integrates the production and valorization of microalgae under the concept of biorefinery, and determines its economic viability through Life Cycle Analysis (in Spanish, ACV.) In this project, two different strategies regarding biomass use are considered: Firstly, the direct use of biomass as food in aquaculture, or the production of biofertilizers or biogas. Secondly, the processing of biomass in order to obtain different products of industrial interest. Since microalgae biomass consists mostly of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, the products to be obtained are the following: 1) Proteins that will be used for animal nutrition by mixing it with fodder, 2) Alcohols obtained through the pre-treatment and fermentation of algae biomass, 3) oils from lipid fraction that can be used in animal food, 4) biogas obtained through anaerobic digestion of algae residual biomass. In order to close the cycle of biomass production, the CO2 generated by anaerobic digestion of residual microalgae will be recycled to the stage of production of algae biomass, so that the production system will act as a CO2 sink, reducing the emission of greenhouse effect gases. Therefore, this holistic approach will allow bio-products to be obtained from the recycling of nutrients from agricultural sewage while contributing to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. - VALORIZATION OF PROTEINS AND LIPIDS OF THE RESIDUAL MICROALGAE GROM THE AGRICULTURAL SEWAGE TREATMENT - Main researchers: Silvia Bolado Rodríguez - PhD student: Ana Lorenzo - This project expects to develop an economical and sustainable process (based on the concept of biorefinery) in order to obtain bioproducts and bioenergy through residual biomass constituted by microalgae and bacteria cultivated with organic matter and nutrients naturally present in agricultural sewages. It also expects to study different options for extraction and purification of two of the main parts of this biomass: proteins and lipids. The processes in the agricultural and food industry generate a big amount of liquid residual currents with a high concentration of organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus compounds, which confer a high economic potential. A more efficient restoration of these waste waters is carried out by committees of microalgae-bacteria. This process is also able to retain this pollutant compounds and, therefore, allows its later retrieval. Due to the increasing lack of natural resources and the increasing waste generation, the development of these processes is and must be a priority in the context of a European sustainable economy. Among all the possibilities, there is the sequential alternative of the different biomass fractions (proteins, lipids and carbohydrates), where the concept of biorefinery for its complete explotation is applied. A variety of products with an economic interest can be obtained through each of these fractions. - USE OF MICROALGAE FOR THE TREATMENT OF POLLUTED MINERALS BY POLLUTED WATER AND HEAVY METALS - Main researchers: Silvia Bolado Rodríguez, Raúl Muñoz - PhD student: Ricardo Saavedra -This research aims to develop a bioremediation system based on the use of microalgae and its usefulness as an alternative to the current treatment process in Loa River basin, located in the region of Antofagasta, Northern Chile. This river is of great importance in the area because it is the only source of surface water in the Atacama Desert. The use of this water has important limitations due to the presence of minerals (such as boron and arsenic) and heavy metals (mainly copper, zinc and manganese) at concentrations classified as hazardous contamination by the World Health Organization (WHO). The source of this pollution is associated both to natural causes (the volcanic and geological characteristics of the terrain make water bodies solubilize metals from various minerals present in the subsoil composition), as well as a product of human activity, mainly associated with the development of industrial mining processes. They involve the generation of solid and liquid wastes, which may diffuse to the underground drainage and from there, to the surface drainage in the region, causing serious environmental issues. In addition, the small amount of natural water sources present in this desert region (no rivers, no rainfall) makes water a critical resource and a very scarce commodity that must be shared by the community, agriculture and industrial activity in the region. Also, the tightening of environmental laws regarding industrial standards, and the growing social interest concerning pollution makes today the treatment and management of these wastes an area of great interest and importance, and searching for new and better alternatives to conventional treatment methods with higher efficiencies, lower costs and a more environmentally friendly become necessary. In response, bioremediation technique has gained attention in recent years and emerged as an alternative to compete with conventional treatment processes. The use of microalgae has focused a special attention because of their wide availability and the fact that numerous species of microalgae have been reported to be able of eliminate pollutants found in their environment through several mechanisms. These elimination processes can be carried out in two ways: biosorption, where the pollutant is just retained on the outer surface of the cell wall thanks to its physicochemical properties, and bioaccumulation, an active process in which microalgal cells capture free ions of contaminants, holding them inside the cell. -

Other information

Number of researchers:


Development status:

In research and development phase

Differentiation in the market:


Applicability of technology:


Companies and markets:

• Gas treatment: Gas Natural Fenosa S.A., JSF Hidráulica • Treatment and recovery of solid waste: URBASER, Biogas Fuel Cell. S.A., 1A consultants • Sewage treatment: Elecnor, Socamex, CADAGUA, Suez Environment, Heineken España, Befesa • Pre-treatments: MAXAMCORP HOLDING S.L


• Chemical analysis lab - Equipment for water, waste and gas characterization. - pH determination, Chemical oxygen demand (in Spanish, DQO) solids, nitrogen, phosphorus, extractives, lignin... • Instrumental analysis lab - Gas chromatographs with MS-Thermal desorption detectors, FID, TCD, ECD... - Liquid chromatographs with IC-UV detectors, IR-Diode, - Luminometer, - Spectrophotometer, - Fluorometer, - TOC/TN analyzer, - Size particle analyzer, - Espirometers, - FTIR, - Specific H2S and gas NH3 sensors. • Molecular biology lab - Electrophoresis equipment, - Southern-blot equipment, - Thermal cycler (PCR and real time PCR module) + software, - Bead-beter equipment with cellular disruption, - Kits for DNA/RNA extraction and purification (lineal and plasmid), - Electrophoresis gases display equipment + software, - Epifluorescence microscope + camera + software, - Hybridization ovens, freezers (-20, -80 ºC), - Cabinets for DNA/RNA handling with UV module, - Refrigerated centrifugal - Autoclaves. • Pilot plants - Plant for steam explosion, AFEX, - thermostat-controlled incubation chambers, - Heat and cold chambers, - Bubble bioreactors with recirculation, - Biotrickling filters, - Air-lift bioreactors, - Stirred-tank bioreactors and fluidized bed bioreactors, - Gas and liquid fermenters, - Anaerobic digestors (wet and dry processes) - HRAP 180L, - Tubular photo-bioreactors.

Additional Information:

The Environmental Technology Research Group have several technical equipment in their facilities to perform their research. For each activity, this equipment consists of: -Pilot studies of biodegradability: Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Bed (UASB) (0.5 - 200L), membrane bioreactors, dry digestion. - Sludge pre-treatment and solid waste:Thermal hydrolysis, ultrasound, enzymatic incubation - Pilot studies of biofiltration for VOC and odor treatment: Biofilters activated sludge difussion, biotricking filters, two-phase partitioning bioreactors. - Dynamic surveillance of microbian population for EDAR - Microalgae culture in high-speed algae ponds Besides of the already mentioned research activities supported by public institutions, the research group has actively collaborated with several companies with the aim of strengthening the transfer of knowledge between the University and the Industry. In this context, the Environmental Technology Research Group has participated in 40 publicly funded projects (with a total budget of €4,879,217 and 47 privately financed projects (with a total budget of €6,155,167). The Group currently consists of 10 Major Researchers, 5 PostDocs, 15 Doctorates, 2 Researches and 5 Technicians. Besides, the Group has defended 26 thesis, 174 ISI publications, 16 non-ISI publications, 178 international congresses and 6 patents.


3310 - Industrial technology

Other members:

Pedro Antonio García Encina
Mar Peña Miranda
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María Fernández Polanco
Sara I. Pérez Elvira
Raúl Muñoz Torre
Rubén Irusta
Silvia Bolado
Raquel Lebrero
Aitor Aizpuru
Nuria Martín
Araceli Crespo
Enrique Marco
Mónica Gay Martín
Daniel Fernández Planillo
Miguel Ángel Mouriz
Jonatan Prieto
Patricia Ayala
Rebeca Pérez
Esther Arnáiz
Rebeca López Serna
Elisa Rodríguez
Esther Posadas
Rodolfo Travaini
Sonia Martínez Páramo
Israel Díaz
José Manuel Estrada
Ieva Sapkaite
Juan Carlos López
Natalia Alfaro
Osvaldo Frutos
Sara Cantera
Judit Martín
Dimas García
Ilker Arkmirza
Ana Lorenzo
Thiago Do Nascimiento
Ricardo Saavedra Concha
David Marín de Jesús
María del Rosario Rodero
Roxana Ángeles Torres
Yadira Rodríguez
Cristina Álvarez Requena
Jaime Benito
Nereida Pérez



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