A major challenge when converting many wastes into energy lies in the pretreatment of the waste, which makes the solid materials accessible to subsequent biological degradation. The chemical structure of the wastes, which include lignocellulose and keratin rich materials, such as those used in the research at the School of Engineering, needs to be broken down before it can be used to obtain energy.
Since very little is known about the decomposition of these structures at the molecular level, a huge variety of methods have been tested and are still being tested to improve the pretreatment.
The computational modelling described in this project proposes to complement, and even replace some of, these resource-intensive studies. That is, we propose to perform molecular level computational studies of waste materials to identify the major barriers (e.g. strong chemical bonds), that hinder theirs decomposition. Since these calculations will be done in close collaboration with experimental studies at the School of Engineering, they will assist in knowledge-based research aimed at optimizing the waste pretreatment step. In Addition, due to our close collaboration with external partners (e.g. Borås Energi & Miljö AB via projects financed by Waste Refinery), this project will improve many of the industrial processes in Sjuhärad region.