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Province of Groningen supports knowledge development of green process technology

04 February 2020

How can small companies deploy supercritical CO2 for the environmentally-friendly production of sustainable chemical products? This question is central to the four-year project being conducted by the University of Groningen, Hanze University of Applied Sciences and seven companies. The Province of Groningen and the Northern Netherlands Alliance (SNN) are jointly supporting the initiative with a subsidy of around € 3.8 million. € 3.35 million of this total sum has been provided by a European subsidy (European Regional Development Fund). The project is expected to provide around 50 jobs at the participating companies within the agrifood, energy and chemical sectors and at a future knowledge centre.

On the occasion of the Week of the Circular Economy, on February 4, Province of Groningen representative/minister Nienke Homan and SNN director Marjan Dol handed over a cheque to the initiators of the project, Prof. Francesco Picchioni, CEO of Foamplant Martin Tietema and senior researcher of Avebe Thomas Wielema.

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Green solvent

Supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) is an environmentally-friendly solvent that forms under relatively high pressure and temperature. It is neither a liquid nor a gas but has properties of both. Supercritical CO2 can be used in various ways within industry, for example to separate or dissolve substances. This green process technology saves raw materials, water and energy. It helps companies to develop new and sustainable products in environmentally-friendly ways, such as adhesives and recyclable foams, to replace unsustainable products like Polyurethane, for example. Prof. Francesco Picchioni from the University of Groningen is an internationally-renowned researcher of scCO2 and is one of the initiators. ‘Green products can be made better through green production processes that do not cause any damage to the environment and that use less energy. The use of scCO2 as an alternative for organic solvents could help multiple businesses in the region to achieve this goal. ScCO2 also offers opportunities for the manufacturing industry, the food industry and for engineering. Many companies want to know more about this. Together with Hanze University of Applied Sciences, we are offering the participating companies a lot of knowledge and expertise and a broad array of technologies. For this reason, we hold a unique national but also international position. Hopefully, our efforts will lead to groundbreaking innovations that other companies may also benefit from. In this way, together, we are speeding up the necessary transition to a bio-based and circular economy.’

Saving raw materials

The existing knowledge and expertise within the University of Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences about supercritical CO2 will be increased through this project. The participating companies will use this knowledge to develop new, sustainable products through sustainable production processes. As a result, Avebe will soon be able to extract more valuable substances from potatoes by using a smart drying technology that uses 75 percent less energy. Start-up company Foamplant, from Groningen, will also join the project. This company produces biodegradable cultivation foam for horticulture. Raw fossil materials such as turf and stone wool will therefore no longer be necessary. With the help of the supercritical CO2 project, Foamplant expects to increase the sustainability of their production processes and discover new foam applications.

Opportunities for companies

Prof. Francesco Picchioni from the University of Groningen is an internationally-renowned researcher of scCO2 and is one of the initiators. ‘Green products can be made better through green production processes that do not cause any damage to the environment and that use less energy. The use of scCO2 as an alternative for organic solvents could help multiple businesses in the region to achieve this goal. ScCO2 also offers opportunities for the manufacturing industry, the food industry and for engineering. Many companies want to know more about this. Together with Hanze University of Applied Sciences, we are offering the participating companies a lot of knowledge and expertise and a broad array of technologies. For this reason, we hold a unique national but also international position. Hopefully, our efforts will lead to groundbreaking innovations that other companies may also benefit from. In this way, together, we are speeding up the necessary transition to a bio-based and circular economy.’

Industry made sustainable

‘Products must become greener and be made by producing fewer CO2 emissions. Supercritical CO2 can play an important role in this. SMEs may soon be able to profit from innovative applications of this green solvent and, as a result, may be able to reduce their waste, emissions from damaging substances and energy use. To this end, this project is contributing to the increased sustainability of our industry. We would very much like to support this from within the Province of Groningen’, says representative Nienke Homan.

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Last modified:31 March 2020 11.27 a.m.
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