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A rich, but still largely untapped source of raw materials for the chemical industry represents cellulose and lignin biomass, including wood, straw or waste from food production. With help of enzymes, the polymeric structures can be broken down and split into sugars. In fermenters, these are then converted into so-called platform chemicals such as succinic or muconic acid and through conventional synthesis routes into to chemical intermediates and end products.
EKATO has developed an alternative approach for a continuously stirred reactor for this process. By a thermal pretreatment, the water moistened biomass reaches the top of the reactor and is mixed with the enzymes. This mixture flows through the tank and becomes ever thinner with the increasing degree of breakdown and leaves the reactor almost as thin as water. A plug flow is desired in order to achieve a narrow residence time distribution and thus a complete breakdown within a minimum volume.
A targeted power input that is tailored to the given viscosity is made possible by a multi-stage mixing system. The special impeller shape leads primarily to a radial flow around the impeller blade with an inward and outward directed flow and thus provides a good cross-mixing with close contact to the enzymes and biomass. By suppressing the longitudinal mixing, the residence time comes close to the desired principle to be achieved by a plug flow. This technology can then be achieved with minimal investment and operational costs.