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Biorefinery: From Biomass to Building Blocks of Biobased Products (edX)

Learn how to design an effective biorefinery to obtain valuable components from various biobased feedstocks such as plants, organisms and waste streams. The use of fossil resources is a controversial topic and there is much scientific research to argue against their use for energy, chemicals, and in the production of almost every product. Because of this, we’re seeing a huge shift towards sustainable biobased and renewable resources and away from fossil-based ones. In this new world, it’s critical to know how to efficiently and effectively obtain valuable elements from biomass.

Join this course and gain the latest academic knowledge on biorefinery which can be applied to their ongoing studies or to advance their careers.

Just as the petrochemical refinery is a crucial part of the fossil-based industry, so is the biorefinery for the biobased industry. In a biorefinery, a complex biobased feedstock is separated and processed in such a way to maximize sustainability and application opportunities. Upon completing this course, you will understand the tools and techniques needed to efficiently disentangle, separate and convert different biomass based feedstocks into simpler (functional) components.

First, you’ll learn about available techniques and processes for biomass activation, disentanglement and separation. Next, you’ll explore how to design a biorefinery taking into account feedstock and sustainable energy use and dive into:

– Mass and energy balances

– Design of biorefinery process units to obtain multiple products from one type of biomass

– How to recover energy and resources in the biorefinery system

– Evaluation of the designed system with respect to sustainability and economic criteria

– Evaluation of criteria for successful implementation

This course is part of the MicroMasters programme in Chemistry and Technology for Sustainability: a series of 3 courses and a final capstone project designed to help you develop the skills needed to seize opportunities and embrace the transition from a fossil-based economy to a biobased one. It’s especially valuable to those who have (or ambition to have) a career in industries such as: (bio)chemical industry, agrifood water companies, energy producers, logistics, and related (non-)governmental organizations.

Explore the other courses in the MicroMasters programme:

– Catalytic Conversions for Biobased Chemicals and Products

– From Fossil Resources to Biomass: A Business and Economics Perspective

– Capstone – Final project and exam (only available to learner who have obtained a verified certificate in all other courses of the MicroMasters programme).

What you’ll learn

After this course you will be able to:

– Choose proper (chemical) pre-treatment and conversions to arrive at the required products

– Conceptually design a biorefinery process

– Critically evaluate a process design with respect to energy and feedstock efficiency

– Compare that design with fossil-based processes

– Know how to activate/disentangle and separate biobased feedstocks

Course Syllabus

Module 1: Introduction to Biorefinery

In this introduction module you will get acquainted with the general concepts of biorefineries. Use our diagnostic test to check if you need to get additional information before starting with the next module.

Module 2: Biomass and Biorefineries

Let’s take a closer look at biomass, what components can be found in them and how to get these out as value-adding compounds. This module focuses on the refinery of naturally occurring compounds, such as oils and proteins.

Module 3: Conversion

In this module we zoom in on fermentation as a bioconversion method. Based on the case of the acetone-butanol-ethanol fermentation by Clostridium species, we will illustrate the use of fermentation in biorefineries.

Module 4: Downstream Processing

This module highlights several methods used to separate fermentation broth into different streams. You will learn how to effectively get your product out!

Module 5: Process Evaluation and Improvements

Let’s zoom out and look at the biorefinery process as whole. Find out how you can improve a process with respect to energy use, side-streams recovery, and economics.

Module 6: Case Study: Process Design

You will learn to use the flow-sheeting software SuperPro Designer to design a bio-butanol process. You will look at the different steps needed to convert and separate the product. In addition you will look at a biorefinery process and propose relevant improvements using the knowledge acquired in the course.

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