Investigacion

Investigadores Icesi: Guillermo Montoya (PI), Giovanni Rojas (CoI), María Francisca Villegas (CoI)

Over 500.000 liters of vinasse are produced daily in Colombia by sugar and yeast production industries. Due to its application as fertilizer with an unbalanced nutritional composition, it is polluting soils and groundwater sources. Icesi has previously identified and quantified in vinasse aconitic acid (TAA), a biopolymer precursor, although extracting TAA will not substantially change its composition. UCL has been working on fractionating and valorizing UK-based renewable feedstock. Thus, to address this environmental threat we propose a long-term research and training partnership between UCL and Icesi, aiming at: (i) developing a bioprocess strategy for the vinasse resulting in the extraction and use of valuable chemicals and (ii) the production of nutrient-rich digestate and biogas for its use by the Colombian farming community. The above will result in a reduction of environmental pollution, economical valorization of the byproduct, and savings to the sugarcane industry.

Colaboradores: UCL, Anaero Technologies

Financiador: Newton Caldas Research Fund

Fechas: abril 2016 - marzo 2018

Contacto:

Maria Francisca Villegas

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Guillermo Montoya

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Investigadores Icesi: María Francisca Villegas (COL)

The human population of the city of Cali, in Colombia, increased from ~1’400.000 in 1985 to ~3’700.000 in 2018 (DANE, 2018). This increase has been coupled with an increase in municipal waste, putting pressure on current waste management systems. In Colombia, as in most developing countries, organic waste (biowaste) constitutes a large proportion (50-80%) of waste generated under low- and middle-income settings (Troschinetz and Mihelcic, 2009). In Cali marketplace, generated fruit, flower and vegetable residues are currently mainly dumped on landfills and dumpsites (without any treatment), where they increase the risk of groundwater water and soil contamination, rodent infestation, GHG emissions and air pollution from strong odors, which are all potential human health and environmental hazards. This has put pressure on local authorities to explore a comprehensive waste management system that minimizes waste and increases the economic value of waste.

One of the waste management alternatives available is the implementation of anaerobic digestion systems from which renewable energy in the form of biogas is generated with the concomitant production of digestate. Besides the benefits, small-scale biogas plants in Colombia are not a commercially viable investment, when biogas is only taken as commercial product. As result this project aims at produce digestate with comparable characteristics to what can be obtained from a waste to energy facility that will treat 54 tons of organic waste each day sourced from central markets in Cali. In order to further assess its uses and commerciality as organic fertilizer becoming an additional revenue source to improve the viability of biogas plants. The different tasks will include:

  1. Conducting monitoring and sampling campaigns of 14 representative feedstock samples to track, separate, typify and quantify organic waste generation at the indicated local marketplaces, during dry and wet seasons. Also, the weekly sampling for the 50 L pilot plan operation.
  2. Characterization of the chemical and physical properties of the organic waste fractions in terms of dry matter and volatiles solids content, carbon oxygen demand, pH and nutrient content (NPK), and identify potentially valuable mixtures that are feasible, based on their temporal dynamics and characteristics.
  3. Assess the biomethane potential under the VDI 4630 German norm of the defined valuable mixtures employing 1L batch systems with online flux monitoring systems.
  4. Subjecting organic waste to anaerobic digestion trials at pilot scale in a 50 L semi-continues stirred tank system (sCSTR) over 6 months to produce the digestate by-product of interest with consistent quality for further characterization.
  5. Characterization of the digestate by-product in terms of dry matter and volatiles solids content, carbon oxygen demand, pH, NPK content and heavy metals presence to determine its nutritional value.

Colaboradores: Fraunhofer ICT, Universidad del Valle

Financiador: GGGI

Fechas: diciembre 2019 - octubre 2020

Contacto:

Maria Francisca Villegas

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Investigadores Icesi: María Francisca Villegas (PI), Guillermo Montoya (CoI), Giovanni Rojas (CoI)

Colombian economy is centered in agriculture, producing tones of residual biomass per day either left on the soil or disposed as waste. A big proportion of it is catalogued as lignocellulosic material that can be employed as feedstocks for the production of high value chemicals and second-generation bioethanol. These practices have not been implemented in Colombia yet due to processing costs, which are not compensated by current bioethanol revenues (Pereira-Hernandez et al., 2015). Nevertheless, if they are combined with the manufacture of higher value products (e.g. resins, thermoplastics, PHAs), these additional revenue streams can make the process sustainable and profitable. Lignin valorisation strategies for the production of resins and thermoplastics are part of the extensive expertise of the ICT Fraunhofer in chemistry and process engineering. Icesi, on the other hand has been working on biogas and PHAs production from the carbohydrate fraction found in lignocellulosic biomass. Thus, to develop a sustainable process for lignocellulose valorisation we propose a long-term research and training partnership between ICT Fraunhofer and Icesi, aiming at developing a bioprocess strategy for lignocellulosic biomass resulting in the production of resins, PHA-based polymers, biogas and fertilizers. The above will result in a sustainable processing strategy for residual biomass that can be implemented by several actors within the agricultural sector developing the Colombian bioecenomy and improving social welfare into the sector.

Colaboradores: Fraunhofer ICT, Universidad del Valle

Financiador: BMBF - Minciencias

Fechas: enero 2017 - diciembre 2018

Contacto:

Maria Francisca Villegas

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Guillermo Montoya

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Giovanni Rojas

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Investigadores Icesi: Nelson Caicedo (CoI), María Francisca Villegas (CoI)

This proposal builds upon previous research collaborations between ICESI, which is pioneering Biochemical Engineering training in Colombia, and UCL Biochemical Engineering in the UK, the largest academic bioprocessing group in the world. It will use UCL’s established post-experience Modular Training for the Bioprocess Industries Programme (MBI®) to create, share and implement a new eMBI module in Industrial Biotechnology (IB) trialled and consulted at critical stages during material development with Levepan, a nationally recognized IB-based company. With this eMBI module we expect to consolidate the research capacities currently under development by the Newton-Caldas Institutional Links grant, awarded early this year, as both knowledge and technological training of future generations are required for this matter.

IB is considered the economic driver in health, biofuels and renewable chemicals and in the food and agricultural sectors by the exploitation of renewable sources. Countries with great natural and biological resources, such as Colombia, have huge potential to exploit these in a sustainable manner. Thus a synergistic work between industry, academia and government is required to strengthen national research capacity, technological development and innovation. UCL and ICESI started collaborative research work, which we aim to expand through this proposal towards knowledge share and building a training capacity that is supported by the industrial sector. The project has been designed in such a way that it can be self-sustained and cover other engineering topics in the medium and long term.

Colaboradores: UCL - Levapan

Financiador: RAE – Minciencias

Fechas: marzo 2017 - marzo 2019

Contacto:

Maria Francisca Villegas

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Nelson Caicedo

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Investigadores Icesi: Fredy Rojas (CoI), Licelly Canizales (Col), María Francisca Villegas (CoI), Nelson Caicedo (CoI)

SuperPro Designer® is a process simulator software used for analyzing the techno-economic feasibility of large-scale bioprocesses. Its predetermined built-in features allow for easy implementation by non-experts, but a lack of examples limits its appropriation. This study aims to validate the implementation of SuperPro Designer® by non-experts for the techno-economic analysis of anaerobic digestion in Colombia, using vinasse as feedstock. These results demonstrate the financial feasibility of such a process when a processing flow rate of 25 m3/h is ensured. Additionally, this study validates the manageability of the tool for assessing the economic feasibility of a technology, a key practice during technology development regardless of the area of expertise.

Colaboradores: MÖBIUS

Financiador: Interfacultades

Fechas: 2017-2019

Contacto:

Maria Francisca Villegas

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Fredy Rojas

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Investigadores Icesi: Nelson Caicedo (PI), María Francisca Villegas (CoI)

The innovative research area to be covered in this project is related with the exploitation of a non-conventional biodiversity (Anaerobic Sludge from UASB bioreactors for biogas production from sugar cane vinasse), which nowadays is wasted and according with their high production volume is becoming a huge environmental problem in Colombia. At the same time, the strong collaboration between UCL and ICESI will offer to the industries the conceptual design of a bioprocess with a sustainable perspective. This is very interesting because not all solutions from bioprocess point of view guarantees sustainability. UCL has been working on fractionating and valorizing UK-based renewable feedstocks. Thus, to address this bioprocess we propose to strengthen the research and training partnership between UCL and Icesi, aiming at: (i) developing a process strategy for AD sludge biodiversity exploitation (ii) the sustainable production of biodiesel from microalgal biomass obtained by cultivation on balanced medium based on AD sludge. The above will result in a first concrete biorefinery approach by using Colombian industrial waste-biomass. The project here proposed will positively impact the Colombian economy and social welfare in the short, medium and long term.

Short term: 1) Economic benefit from alternative clean energy sources and low cost high quality animal feed. 2) Environmental protection by recycling industrial waste into by-products. 3) Social progress by educating future generations in sustainable industrial processes. Medium and long term: The successful completion of this project will further develop an R&D pipeline for industrial biotechnology (IB) in Colombia, contribute to a pool of trained and skilled researchers, and broaden the knowledge base and strengthen the multidisciplinary work within and between Universities.

Colaboradores: UCL – Levapan S.A

Financiador: Minciencias - Newton Caldas Research Fund

Fechas: mayo 2017 - mayo 2019

Contacto:

Maria Francisca Villegas

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Nelson Caicedo

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Investigadores Icesi: María Francisca Villegas (CoI)

Colaboradores: University of East Anglia, Universidad de los Andes, Instituto Humboldt

Colombia is one of the 17 "megadiverse" countries in the world. Developing a sustainable bioeconomy based on the responsible use of its biodiversity is a priceless opportunity for the equitable, inclusive and sustainable socio-economic growth of the country. Colombia is just starting to develop and implement bioeconomic strategies and policies, as well as the related systematic assessment of the environmental and social impacts brought by such economic changes. Our cluster will bring together academic researchers, key industry, and government and policy advisors from Colombia and the UK to contribute establishing sustainable bioeconomic strategies (Phase 1) and pilot initiatives (Phase 2) in the agrifood and scientific ecotourism sectors in four targeted regions of Colombia. These strategic sectors and regions have been identified in previous activities.

The cluster builds on three UKRI GCRF projects (>£10M investment) in Latin America, mainly Colombia, with strong complementary capacity building programs ("GROW Colombia", "CABANA" and "UKRI GCRF Trade, Development and the Environment Hub"), two Newton-Fund projects in Colombia (BRIDGE and C3biodiversidad), and the policy work by the PIs in the UK and Colombia, who participated as experts in the Colombian President's mission to develop Colombia's Science, technology and innovation (STI) agenda. Colombian partners include business associations and the Chamber of Commerce of the targeted regions, exemplary bioeconomic business, non-profit organizations implementing ecotourism pilot projects and key Universities and Research Institutes working in these four regions from our previous activities.

The cluster in this first phase (12 months) will facilitate three regional workshops to foster multisectoral partnerships in the agri-food and ecotourism sector in four regions. It will also conduct technical assessments of the existing and required capacity as well as market opportunities and challenges in each region, and eventually propose pilot strategies to transform the value chains while conserving the natural resources and yielding transparent environmental, social and economic benefits, that could be elaborated in a second phase. Our cluster is built on a shared vision of ensuring environmental sustainability in Colombia. Our work can be extended to other developing LATAM countries with similar needs and opportunities where our activities are already happening (Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc.). The cluster also responds to and interconnects various sustainable development goals (SDGs), and provides capacities to a generation of scientists, managers and industry actors crossing disciplines for the local action of such SDGs.

Financiador: GCRF Challenge Clusters

Fechas: enero 2021 - julio 2021

Contacto:

Maria Francisca Villegas

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Investigadores Icesi: María Francisca Villegas (PI), Guillermo Montoya (CoI)

Colaboradores: Hugo Restrepo y CIA S.A.

Colombia is at a critical point in history where social welfare must be its priority, as strengthening it at all levels will translate into a long lasting peace. One of the segments that has been highly affected by the war was the agricultural sector resulting in extensive areas with unexploited and underexploited agricultural potential. Thus, to improve social welfare in this segment environmental protection and economic opportunities must be reinforced. In the current project we are aiming at developing a low cost valorization strategy of residual biomass to produce biofertilizers, biogas and high value molecules to be implemented by small companies and farmers, who will directly benefit from increasing their revenue streams through generation of energy, high value molecules, and improved organic fertilizers (improving soil quality and crop productivity). Through the project, we will develop a modular AD system that can be easily assembled, controlled and operated. Furthermore, this work will increase our understanding of the microbial communities involved in AD as well as the correlation to starting substrate to achieve a highly efficient and productive system based on the in-depth optimization studies. We will also reinforce the development of a Colombian bioeconomy by extracting high value chemicals from renewable resources that can be employed by alternative industries. In summary this project will develop environmentally friendly, productive and efficient bioprocessing technologies that will benefit the agricultural sector by giving value added to renewable resources.

Financiador: Minciencias convocatoria 745-2016

Fechas: marzo 2017 - marzo 2022

Contacto:

Maria Francisca Villegas

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Guillermo Montoya

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