Hydrothermal Carbonization

Hydrothermal Carbonization (HTC) is a  wet biomass conversion technology. It mimics the natural process of coal formation in the lab  in just a few hours. The biomass  or biomass precursor is placed in a closed reactor (i.e. autoclave) and treated at about 180-250°C under self-generated pressure. During this process  complex chemical reactions take place. The final product is a solid residue  called Hydrothermal Carbon while the sourrounding liquid phase contains important chemicals such as furfuals and small organic acids.

There are several advantages associated with this technology:

  • HTC materials can be used for direct energy generation ( as biocoal) for decentralized energy applications.
  • The resulting biochars can be put into soil under the “Terra Preta” concept to improve soil quality and at the same time store CO2 from plants.
  • The technology can be also used to convert biowaste from municipal streams into useful carbon materials.
  • The resulting carbon materials can be easily nano structured or functionalised and used for important applications  in renewable energy, catalysis, CO2 capture or water purification.
  • The liquid phase contains important chemicals which can be extracted and further converted in interesting biochemicals and biofuels
  • The water phase can be re-used which reduces the consumption of water for this process
  • The whole process is exothermic and therefore has a favorable energy balance

HTC concept

In our group we are interested in all these aspects with particular focus on using HTC as a sustainable alternatives to nanostructured carbons for  renewable energy, catalysis and CO2 capture.

Our most relevant papers:

Black Perspectives for a Sustainable Future

Chemistry and Materials Option for Sustainable Carbon Materials