University of Minnesota CFANS and CSE to conduct pulp and paper and other bio-based industry projects for new institute

Falcon Heights, MN— The University of Minnesota Departments of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering and Bioproducts and Biosystems, Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science are part of a national consortia seeking to address key challenges in energy intensive manufacturing process industries in the United States by bringing its expertise in pulp and paper, food and bio-based industry to the country's 10th Manufacturing U.S.A. Institute.

"This is a tremendous recognition of the capacity that the University of Minnesota can bring to address critical issues at the intersection of industry and natural resources, and we're grateful to our partners in the College of Engineering for their collaboration and the Department of Energy for their investment," said CFANS Dean Brian Buhr "This project exemplifies our imperative to advance rural economies, particularly those in Northern Minnesota, while at the same time reducing our environmental footprint through advanced technical efficiencies for resource utilization."

"Being selected to be key players in the pulp, paper, food and biorefining portion of this immense effort highlights the strength and breadth of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Sciences (CFANS) and the University of Minnesota," said CFANS Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs Greg Cuomo. "With goals of improving productivity and energy efficiency, this effort helps the U of M serve the important Minnesota forest products industry. And the efforts focus on training students will ensure strong future leadership in this vital industry."

The recently announced advanced manufacturing institute is dedicated to improving the productivity and efficiency of chemical and other manufacturing by combining multiple manufacturing process steps into single steps. Not only would such process intensification boost manufacturing productivity, but changes would cut costs and reduce energy and waste. The chemical industry could save more than $9 billion annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's announcement of the institute on Dec. 9.

This announcement represents a critical step in the Obama Administration's effort to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030, according to Acting Assistant Secretary Friedman announced the new institute at the U.S. Council on Competitiveness' 2016 National Competitiveness Forum.

The new institute will be known as RAPID for the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment. Leveraging up to $70 million in federal funding, subject to appropriations, and an additional $70 million in private cost-share commitments from over 130 partners, the RAPID Institute will focus on developing breakthrough technologies to boost domestic energy productivity and energy efficiency by 20 percent in five years through manufacturing processes in industries such oil and gas, pulp and paper, food, and biorefining.

The University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Sciences (CFANS) Professor and Head Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering Shri Ramaswamy is one of the lead investigators in the national pulp and paper team. "The aim of the new manufacturing institute is to develop process integration and intensification strategies and modular approaches to manufacturing that is applicable to wide range of energy intensive industries including bio-based industries." said Ramaswany.

"Our investment in this cross-cutting technology is an investment in the future of U.S. manufacturing," said Acting Assistant Secretary Friedman. "As we expand the Manufacturing USA network, we provide greater opportunities for businesses of all sizes to solve their toughest technology challenges and unleash major savings in energy-intensive sectors like oil and gas, pulp and paper-making and other industries."

"With the participation of expert colleagues in chemical engineering and materials science and mechanical engineering, the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) is delighted to have partnered with CFANS to bring interdisciplinary innovations and workforce training to this critical energy-intensive manufacturing sector," said CSE Associate Dean for Research and Planning Mos Kaveh.

The RAPID Institute will serve as an American manufacturing leader convening companies, universities, industrial research organizations and national laboratories to focus on new technologies that maximize processes at the molecular level to save energy with every chemical reaction—adding up to big savings on the manufacturing floor.

"RAPID will enable the development of compact, intensified reactors that benefit rural areas by moving chemical, materials and energy production to portable manufacturing systems. New distributed processing technology will further enhance these industries in Minnesota which has diverse but distributed forms of biomass including forests, grasslands and agriculture," said University of Minnesota Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Associate Professor Paul Dauenhauer.

RAPID is the fourth Energy Department-led institute in the multiagency network known as Manufacturing USA (also known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation). Collectively, the federal government's commitment of more than $700 million to the ten awarded Manufacturing USA Institutes has been matched by more than $1.4 billion in non-federal investment from across industry, academia, and state governments. The institutes, each led by manufacturing experts renowned in their field, have attracted over 1,300 companies, universities, and non-profits as members of Manufacturing USA. For more information about the RAPID Institute and participating organizations, visit Energy.gov.

University of Minnesota researchers are proposing a number of projects to address key challenges facing the pulp and paper, food and distributed bio-refining industries. Each of these proposed collaborative projects specifically aim to address the following key U.S. Department of Energy defined goals: at least 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency, doubling of energy productivity via reductions in capital and operating costs, enabling cost effective deployment of new technologies in existing manufacturing sites, and educating students to prepare them for the workforce.

"We estimate our total requested budget to the U.S. Department of Energy for these proposed projects will be approximately $2.5 million per year for five years. If the projects are selected to be funded at the requested level, the forest products industry, which has undergone a significant cutback in the recent years, and the emerging bio-based industry in Minnesota can benefit immensely," said Ramaswamy.

Proposed projects addresses key challenges in pulping, bleaching, papermaking, renewable adhesives, food processing, biorefining, pyrolysis, carbon capture and conversion.

 

Researcher Lucas Stolp and Dr. Shri Ramaswamy next to a thin film evaporator and displaying (clockwise) white pulp, kraft pulp, black liquor (in the beaker), and woodchips.