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Hydrothermal Carbonization

Hydrothermal Carbonization has recently attracted attention as a potential process to access agricultural residues or municipal biomass waste for an energetic use. Therefore its feasibility is currently under investigation. During this process, biomass undergoes significant changes, which are similar to the natural, thermochemical coalification, i. e. depending on process parameters products similar to peat, lignite and even young coal can be created. In contrast to natural coalification, the duration of hydrothermal carbonization is reduced to some hours even at mild reaction conditions (200°C, 20bar). One big advantage is the possibility to utilize wet biomass without the need of drying, which would consume additional energy.


At our department, the energetic efficiency of hydrothermal carbonization is being investigated. This efficiency is potentially very high, but there is not enough knowledge to judge its technical implementation yet. Therefore two projects have been initiated which aim at contributing to a better assessment of its feasibility.

Measurements of the heat of reaction


Based on a scholarship funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, basics of the energetic nature of hydrothermal carbonisation shall be determined. The heat of reaction will be measured and the recovery of this heat in a suitable manner examined. A specific experimental set up has been designed to assess this task.


An evaluation of advantages and disadvantages of direct flash cooling by steam extraction is being assessed to provide a possibility to avoid indirect heat transfer with the related problems.

Research funded by BMBF

The BMBF is funding a joint research project including Technischen Universität Berlin, SunCoal Industries, Potsdam Institut für Klimafolgenforschung and Forschungsinstitut für bioaktive Polymersysteme (BIOPOS) which aims at optimising the process and evaluating it from an economic and environmental point of view. Additionally, the commissioning of a continuously operating experimental plant is being planned.
Our institute primarily addresses the detailled investigation of heat and mass transfer throughout the process.

Do not hesitate to contact us for topics to prepare a bachelor or master thesis, which are upcoming on a regular basis throughout the project!


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