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Innovative sensors for anaerobic digestion systems

To develop two sensors to be used in control systems of anaerobic bioreactors. An innovative approach using optical fibre based sensing systems will be developed for measurement of methane in biogas streams and volatile fatty acids from the bulk of anaerobic digesters.

1. BACKGROUND Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a process related to energy and waste sectors, being applied to the treatment of organic solid waste as well as industrial and municipal wastewaters. Nowadays, AD is considered as a key technology for valorisation of organic waste and renewable energy generation in the form of biogas. Understanding of the process, together with specific measurements of operational parameters are needed to achieve optimal and stable performance, thus monitoring and control of vital importance for AD systems. Digester failures result in costly restarting processes and long periods of recuperation of microbial activity creating loss of energy (biogas) production. Bioprocess monitoring is generally performed by measuring fundamental physical and chemical parameters, like temperature, flow and pH, using sensors which can be easily integrated into the fermentation/biotransformation system. However, due to the relatively high complexity of the biochemical reactions involved, it is of considerable importance to use analytical methods able to monitor additional parameters such as metabolic products (e.g. VFAs - Volatile Fatty Acids), or the product itself (e.g. methane), in order to have a better understanding and control of the bioprocess under investigation. Presently, the measurement of such specific operational parameters related to microbial metabolism is associated with expensive instrumentation (like gas chromatography or high pressure liquid chromatography) and time consuming procedures that do not provide timely feedback. In this scope, in order to improve process management, avoid high maintenance costs due to failures, improve biogas production and increase the overall efficiency and stability of anaerobic digestion systems there is a need for a reliable set of sensors for on-line analytical measurements of key parameters. Optical fibre sensing technologies have some intrinsic advantages that make them an appealing alternative for the development of on-line biochemical sensors. 2. GOAL (including market applications) The project's main objective is the development of cost-effective optical fibre based sensors for on-line monitoring in anaerobic digesters of the percentage of methane in the biogas and the concentration of volatile fatty acids (VFA) in the bulk of the digester. The project includes the design of pre-commercial versions of the sensors, aiming at short-term commercialisation after the end of the project. Additionally, the project combines know-how and market experience from several companies and a research institute, with successful collaboration between partners also considered as an objective of the project, in order to establish a platform for the development of other added value products. Nowadays and in the scope of optimisation of existing AD facilities and the construction of new ones towards the achievement of European objectives, there is a good opportunity for such sensors in the European market. Other markets like Asia and South America are also key targets, given the need for sustainable AD systems equipped with cost-effective sensing equipment. The project is expected to have a positive impact on not only the biogas market in general, but also numbers of other industrial customers that need this kind of sensing capability. The optical fibre based VFA and methane sensor will allow customers to better understand the dynamic changes during the fermentation and ensure stable and efficient operation. With the existing volume capacity of the biogas digester, this will in turn increase the quality of raw gas produced and volume of upgraded gas in the market, having a positive impact on the profitability of biogas producers and increasing incentives to further invest in the industry. PROJECT CONSORTIUM The project consortium has four entities: * SIMBIENTE (S) is a private Portuguese company with expertise in consultancy and research in biotechnology and environment technologies. * FIBERSENSING (FS) is a private Portuguese company with strong R&D activity oriented towards product development. FS produces and sells optical fibre sensors and optoelectronic interrogation units. * INESC PORTO (IP) is a non-profit private research institute with strong knowledge in optical fibre sensing and optoelectronics technologies. * BIOPROCESS CONTROL (BPC) is a Swedish, privately held company that provides technologies and services that support the efficient design and operation of biogas processes. All partners are highly skilled in one or more aspects needed for the project: in research and specifications development, technical development tasks, strategic development of sensors and their market positioning as products. In that scope, the consortium is considered as well balanced, with assigned tasks correspondingly distributed so that streamlined work can be achieved.
Acronym: 
INNOSENSOR
Project ID: 
5 031
Start date: 
01-01-2010
Project Duration: 
48months
Project costs: 
260 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Electrical Engineering and Technology / Electrical Equipment
Market Area: 
Electronic Components

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.