Research found microwave and ultrasound are two technologies which can speed up the pre-treatment process.
To achieve the same result, water-washing required 24-hours, whereas microwave only needed four hours. However, ultrasound, using over 100 times less energy than microwave, only needed six minutes.
It makes ultrasound the best-known pre-treatment method of biomass fuels to date.
Dr Skoulou was one of five authors behind the new paper, titled ‘Augmented Leaching Pre-treatments for Forest Wood Waste and Their Effect on Ash Composition and the Lignocellulosic Network.’
She was joined by Dr Martin Taylor, a Postdoctoral Research Associate and THYME Fellow at the University’s Energy & Environment Institute, and Hassan Alabdrabalameer, from the Department of Chemical Engineering.
Other contributors to the paper were Dr Apostolos Michopoulos, of the University of Cyprus, and Dr Roberto Volpe, from Queen Mary University of London.
Dr Taylor said: “If ash builds up, the blockages stop fuel gas from getting through the reactor, which results in an operational shutdown to clean it all out.
“In business, time is money, so businesses want to avoid that at all costs. The ash forms colder regions in the reactor which cause tar to condense, this is a domino effect which leads to large expenditure for the company and as a result higher energy cost for the consumer.
“Ultrasound is already used at scale in many industries, whereas microwave technologies are not currently scale-up able. This makes this work readily applicable for the energy from waste sector.”
Dr Skoulou’s research was kickstarted by a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as well as support from Energy Works Hull.
The project has also received support from THYME, a collaboration between the universities of York, Hull and Teesside, delivered in partnership with the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) and BioVale.
Funded by the Connecting Capabilities Fund of Research England, the £5 million project is focused on developing the bioeconomy across Yorkshire, the Humber and the Tees Valley, led by the University of York.
Dr Jenny Spear, THYME Programme Manager at the University of Hull, said: “Hull has a wealth of expertise in the pre-treatment of biomass for energy production.
“Through the THYME CCF project we are bringing together regional partners, to accelerate these technologies to improve the performance of local industry - producing greener energy.”
Download and read the full paper here.
More information from the authors about other pre-treatments in one of their other open access papers.