Vancouver scientists turn crop and forest materials into bioproducts
Posted May 25, 2023 10:29 pm.
Last Updated May 29, 2023 11:42 am.
A group of University of British Columbia (UBC) scientists have invented a machine that turns crop and forest materials into useful bioproducts.
Their creation, MiniTorr, has the ability to convert all kinds of organic residue into things like fertilizer, filtration material, and other valuable chemicals.
Last week, Chief Technology Officer Kevin Kung won an award from national innovation organization Mitacs for the ‘first of its kind’ portable system.
Kung says a lot of crop and forest residue is often very wet, loose, and bulky. This makes it difficult and expensive when it comes to collecting and transporting.
“Many rural communities are often shut out of the benefits of the bio-economy, and their own only option is to burn the residue in open air, which adds to air pollution. Here on the west coast, it can increase the risk of forest fires,” he said.
This is a problem Dylan Rodriguez, an engineering student on Kung’s team, says can be solved by MiniTorr.
“Once the material is loaded in her side, there is something inside that pushes the material through and the reaction will happen on this side here … it will then be pushed up and loaded into the barrel,” he explained.
Kung says the team has brought MiniTorr to several rural First Nations communities across B.C. to convert biomass into useful products that would have otherwise been burned and absorbed into the atmosphere as carbon.
He says more than four billion tonnes of biomass is burned globally in the open air each year, and accounts for 10 per cent of global air pollution deaths.
“We intercept the carbon, we turn into a form that is more recalcitrant – which means – if we put it in the soil, it will sit there for thousands of years … that is how we achieve net removal.”
The end product can be used to grow new crops. Kung says he hopes the invention will reduce air pollution in B.C. and around the world.