Biomass-to-activated carbon research receives $45,000 grant

By Chris Hanson | October 02, 2013

Mitacs, a Canadian not-for-profit organization, awarded $45,000 to the Cape Breton University and BW BioEnergy Inc. for a biomass-to-activated carbon research project.

The project aims to utilize torrefaction technology to produce activated carbon from local woody biomass to remove water contaminants through adsorption. Contaminated waters containing heavy metals due to mining operations are an example where activated carbon can be applied to address water pollution, said Barrie Folek, CEO of BW BioEnergy Inc. “We’re finding that our particular species of biomass, once activated, has a high efficiency for capturing heavy metals that are left over after years of mining activity or industrial activity.” 

While using activated carbon to clean polluted water bodies can be a great opportunity, Folek added the biggest potential for activated carbon applications are within drinking water purification operations.  He explained that because of demand and more regulations around drinking water, more water will have to go through the charcoal-type filters in order to meet those guidelines.

Unlike other activation processes, which may require harsh chemicals or release harmful emissions, the carbon activation method is aiming to utilize environmentally friendly methods. “We tried to make the carbon in a closed-loop process so that there’s very little, if any, emissions,” said Folek.

Currently, the on-going tests are coming along “quite well,” Folek said, and are awaiting patents and publication. Once the process is patented, BioEnergy will begin seeking investors and looking at commercialization costs and building a facility.