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European research collaboration to prove feasibility of using starch in energy storage and green catalysis

Posted on 19 April 2017

Scientists at the University of York have teamed up with industry partners to turn renewable plant-based resources such as potato starch into a potential energy source for electric cars.


Dr Peter Hurst, Senior Technologist, working in the BDC’s process development scale-up facility.

The team, which includes scientists from York’s Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC), will be trialling different methods for converting three bio-based starting materials into a porous carbon: potato starch, alginic acid and fruit pectin.

Scientists say the resulting material could be used for energy storage for electric vehicles and as a green catalyst for the chemicals industry.

Duncan Macquarrie, of the University of York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, said: “The first step in our conversion uses expansion technologies, then we freeze dry the material before converting it into a carbon material using a furnace.

“We are investigating using this as a catalyst for chemical processes and to make batteries for electric vehicles.”

Peter Hurst, Senior Technologist at the BDC, added:  “We are using the porosity offered by nature to engineer a stable material with controlled pores, like changing the hole sizes in a sponge.

“By manipulating these and studying how they interact with other materials, like metals, we can change how the material performs; ultimately improving its effectiveness for different uses.”

David Amantia, Principal Investigator for the project from Leitat, Spain, added: “Fundamentally, this project is about replacing a fossil resource, with a more sustainable, biorenewable alternative.

“What is exciting, is that by bringing together the nine partners, we are able to hone the technology from research level right through to a scaled-up production process for industrial testing.”

The team at the BDC will take the process from a lab scale of 100g, and scale it up to develop a pilot line capable of producing up to 20kg/day of the material.

This will provide enough sample material for the industry partners to test and analyse. 

If successful, one of the project outcomes will be a pilot-scale production plant for producing this material, based at the BDC in York, UK.

The four-year project is funded by the EU’s Horizon2020 programme.

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