CPI, Recyclatech advance sulphur-eating biorecycling project
ERJ staff report (PR)
Wilton, UK – The UK’s Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has hightlighted its role on a project to commercialise a process to recycle rubber using a biotech devulcanisation process.
Recyclatech - a spin-off from Edinburgh's Napier University - has developed a micro-organism that can selectively ‘eat’ the sulphur atoms within vulcanised rubber. As ERJ reported back in 2011, the process takes place in a soup made up of tyre crumb and the specialised bacteria.
To take the project forward, Recyclatech engaged CPI, based in Wilton, north east England, to ascertain whether the patented devulcanisation process would work on a large scale.
A Recyclatech team worked alongside scientists at CPI’s laboratories to demonstrate the technology on a commercial scale: processing used tyres, ground to a specific size, into material that could be incorporated into “high-value” rubber products.
Working alongside a team of CPI scientists, Recyclatech ran the full-scale process treating batches of two tonnes in 10m3 reactors to achieve desulphurisation.
The trials, reported CPI, were successful, with Recyclatech now progressing plans for its first full-scale plant for the production of devulcanised waste rubber.
“This was certainly a big challenge for us, as the scale was significant,” said Santhana Krishnan, project manager at the Wilton research centre. “Large scale production has proved successful and the next step for the company is to commercialise the product and build a demonstration plant.”
The Scottish company’s planned facility is to encompass waste rubber tyre procurement, rubber crumb production, control of a patented biotechnological process in 10,000L stainless steel reactors and downstream processing of the devulcanised product.
The unit would be supported by a research laboratory designed to advance microorganisms and rubber-treatment biotechnology.
Recyclatech's commercialisation programme has also involved the recent acquisition of Stockport, UK-based SRC Ltd - a rubber crumbing operation that could supply crumbed material to the proposed devulcanisation plant.