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Flowid opens plant with revolutionary green technology

may 26, 2016

Twan Beurskens, Member of the Provincial Executive for Economy and Knowledge Infrastructure for the Province of Limburg, has opened the new Flowid plant at Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen. At the heart of this plant is a revolutionary new type of chemical reactor. The SpinPro Reactor is up to 100,000 times smaller than conventional reactors, making it much safer, more efficient and more environmentally-friendly.

Flowid from Eindhoven found partners in Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Brightlands Chemelot Campus and Chemelot InSciTe who were not afraid to take this step and invest in the plant.

The Flowid facility has been installed on new premises. These form part of a complex of halls, in which various companies have pilot plants. These companies want to achieve technological breakthroughs through close collaboration. Chemelot InSciTe and Flowid were the first companies to officially open their plant. Chemelot InSciTe (Institute for Science and Technology) also uses the premises and will perform extensive research with the Flowid facility during the coming years into the development and improvement of bio-based production processes. Much research still needs to be done on the most adequate conversion of biomass into usable building blocks for the future.

Prior to the light show during which the facility was unveiled, Marco Waas from AkzoNobel and Gert-Jan Gruter from Avantium, both key players in the industry, presented their vision on the future.

“We are delighted about the collaboration with Flowid and the TU/e. Innovation is a core element of AkzoNobel’s corporate strategy and this collaboration enables us to perform experiments in a pilot plant and at the same time increase our theoretical insight,” says Marco Waas.

The patented SpinPro technology will create more jobs and revenue for the supplying industry. The market targeted by Flowid is worth hundreds of millions of euros. At present, the first SpinPro systems have already been sold to the industry.

Spinning-disc technology
Spinning-disc technology, the basic idea behind the SpinPro Reactor, was developed at TU/e. In a SpinPro Reactor, various liquids are fed from above onto horizontally positioned discs. The discs, about the size of a CD, rotate rapidly in a tight-fitting casing. Because of the special force field, the substances mix almost perfectly while being pumped along the spinning discs within a few seconds. The substances enter into a chemical reaction very rapidly in highly controlled conditions. This allows Flowid to make optimum use of the chemistry, whereas the chemistry is hindered by all kinds of limitations in traditional technology.

View the animated video here for a further explanation of SpinPro technology: https://youtu.be/p42pCoOJ5sc.

SpinPro technology stands out from traditional technologies due to the smaller size of the reactors, a reduced use of energy and raw materials, less or no formation of by-products and the lower operational and investment costs. The small dimensions safeguard the intrinsic safety of the system. It makes small-scale and even decentralized production possible. This is a high-value feature, since bio-based raw materials are preferably processed locally, at the source (to prevent transport of water in the biomass).

Upscaling
Brightlands Chemelot Campus offered Flowid the opportunity to upscale SpinPro technology from a laboratory setting to an industrial environment. This made it possible to increase the production capacity to 80 m3 per day, which is more than enough for many applications. The campus offers an environment where the requirements relating to safety and infrastructure are met. Additionally, potential buyers are also present at the campus.

Relationship with other campus activities
The reactor is highly suitable for bio-based production processes, and therefore Flowid is a good fit for other activities at Brightlands Chemelot Campus, in particular at Chemelot InSciTe. Among other things, this institute focuses on the development, production, testing and perfection of building blocks for bio-based materials. InSciTe uses the Flowid facility for this purpose.

The other users of the new hall complex at the campus are also involved in activities such as the production of building blocks for bio-based materials.

Government support
The Flowid plant is the tangible result of what is called the “Spin-in” project, which involved an investment of 1.7 million euros. Over 700,000 euros of that was funding from the South Netherlands Operational Program (OP-Zuid). This is a joint funding program by the provinces of Limburg, Brabant and Zeeland, together with the cities of Breda, Tilburg, ’s‑Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Helmond, Venlo, Sittard-Geleen, Heerlen and Maastricht for activities that are co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The funding for this project allocated through OP-Zuid is funded by ERDF and the central government.

Flowid had previously received a Valorization Grant of 225,000 euros from Technologiestichting STW to market the SpinPro technology.

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