Sunday, December 8, 2013

The official bionicfuel video... The Past - The Present - The Future

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One month after the bionicfuel mf60d went public...

It's been hectic times for everyone at Bionic ever since the bionicfuel mf60 experienced its world premier at the industry fair at Brno last month. While a demonstration reactor was on exhibition at the booth on the fairgrounds, a fully functional unit was available for demonstrations at the test location within the SMERAL factory premises.

The most impressive stream of high profile and expert visitors has in fact not ended with the fair, where the bionicfuel Technology was honored with a prestigious award "Innovative Product of the Year 2013" delivered by the Industry Minister himself. We experience an unexpected ongoing flood of interest from around the world in a visit to the demonstration plant. The waiting list is so long that any end is simply out of sight...

Innovative Product of the Year 2013 awarded by the Industry Minister
Another outcome of the last few weeks is quite a number of new opportunities for far reaching cooperation and project delivery agreements. We are confident, that we can publish a lot of exciting news over the coming weeks and months. The commercialization of the technology has truly begun.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bionic µBTL mf60d demonstrator entered test phase

Earlier this week the mf60d commercial demonstrator has been switched on for the first time, a success made possible by the excellent collaboration between Bionic R&D and its prime manufacturer SMERAL s.a. Brno in the Czech Republic.

See this Post by Bionic Laboratories BLG GmbH.

A few weeks of rigorous testing and adjustments have been kicked off. This phase includes a formal certification process by independent experts. Presentations for selected clients will commence afterwards.

Full public announcements can be expected in the first half of October.

Congratulations to everyone working hard to make this a success...

An operational mf60D complete with 2 condensers
and one quencher for the liquid fraction

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bionic history flash back: "Biomass to Liquid becomes reality"

In February 2009 Bionic published a video about the first continuous pilot of the microfuel technology. As we are about to get the first commercial prototype ready for certification it is time to look back. Soon the many lessons learned from that first pilot will become known to the interested public followers. The new MF60D release candidate contains several thousand of changes compared to the machine in the video and was actually redesigned from ground up.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The new Bionic µBTL MF60D entered the assembly phase

It has been some time since we last reported on the latest in Bionic's microfuel development. But finally the new downsized fully functional µBTL MF60D demonstrator announced in February is approaching completion. A moment we all are very excited about.

MF60D assembled without microwave units (CAD)

We are now able to share a couple of quite impressive pictures. Here are all of all the mechanical parts (still without Bionic's microwave technology and electronic control modules) while awaiting assembly.

Bionic microfuel demonstrator MF60D ready for assembly
MF60D (top view) awaiting assembly
The top down view gives an excellent perspective on what the completed assembly will look like from the inside. The rotational reactor vessel itself can be seen at the top left side with condenser parts, piping and supporting equipment positioned to the right of it.

The following picture adds the usual view providing a better understanding for the dimensions and actual size of the modules and the completed assembly. As explained before, the reactor unit and all the peripheral modules will later be installed in several standard size container frames, some stacked in two storey configurations.

MF60D awaiting assembly
Final assembly has started at the SMERAL s.r.o. production site in Brno (Czech Republic). Subsequently the microwave and electronic control units built directly at Bionic Laboratories BLG GmbH (Germany) will be added and the completed MF60D reactor unit will be furnished with some basic preprocessing equipment for testing.

Final assembly is under way at the Bionic manufacturerer
SMERAL s.r.o. Brno, Czech Rebulic

After some initial test runs formal certification by the German technical verification agency TUEV will commence. Once finalized we will have a thorough look at a very long waiting list for demonstration visit requests...

The most recent published pictures documenting the MF60D assembly progress can always be found first on the Bionic Laboratories Facebook Page.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Construction of the first Bionic µBTL MF60D reactor on schedule

Manufacturing of the recently announced new Bionic mf60 reactor series is coming along as planned. Watch the short movie of the production process to see the high level of precision and quality that goes into this piece of equipment. It will be used for both, µBTL (biomass-to-liquid) and µWTL (waste-to-liquid) configurations and in addition, in a mobile configuration, for specialty applications like soil decontamination and clean up of oil spills.

A ship based version is also under consideration for a planned ambitious environmental project designed to clean up floating islands of plastic waste putting maritime life in great danger.

A high resolution version of this movie can be viewed here directly on Youtube.

The movie shows how high quality German design is manufactured at one of the oldest Czech machine builders, renown for its dedication to quality. This reactor is built to last for decades and is designed to undergo easy upgrades when more advanced microwave technology becomes available. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jatropha for Dummies - Part 3 - The Farming

We have seen in the last segment of this series: Jatropha has a future which will be non-toxic. I pointed out that high yielding planting material will become available rather sooner than later to make JcL ready for commercial success as a feedstock for high revenue energy products and animal feed. But with the right planting material available, what will the ideal farm look like when we get there?

Looking for the proper farming concepts we should first understand that JcL is a tree crop (or rather a bush or shrub). Traditionally it was planted in hedges which primarily had a living fence function to separate cattle from farmed fields. Obviously Jatropha was doing well in such a planting pattern where mono cropping is not an issue which in JcL brings along problems like heavy pest attacks and scarcity of water and nutrients. Therefore the good old hedges planted alongside roads and fields with superior modern planting material can become a great way for the traditional small African farmer to make himself some extra income while fully sticking to his original farming practices.

Freshly pruned JcL double alleys
But, as a completely different playing field we also have to look deeper into large scale commercial farming. At Bionic Palm we have run an extensive Jatropha test farming project on more than 100 ha for many years to study the best agronomic methods. Very early we understood that true sustainability can never be accomplished with a mono cropping system. Thus, over a series of intermediary steps, we arrived at our optimal solution: double alleys with a minimum of 10 m in between for permanent intercropping with the most convenient annual crops.

The double alley approach has numerous advantages especially in semi arid climates. The hedges offer protection from soil erosion through wind and rain. They can also improve soil quality in many ways operating as a nutrient pump from deeper levels, adding carbon to the soil by shedding their leaves and by supporting and maintaining microorganisms added to the soil like mycorrhiza.

If irrigation is part of the farming strategy permanent piping can be installed in between the double hedges giving them good protection.

While many annual crops (maize, soy, beans, ground nut just to name a few) can be planted together with JcL hedges we actually prefer high value vegetable crops in combination with a no-till system, be it glyphosate (round-up) or cover crop based. Only these crops really bring the enormous profitability potential of an agroforestry concept built on non-toxic JcL backbones into reality.

Adding a comprehensive soil development and management concept utilizing biochar and organic fertilizer can help turning very difficult environmental conditions like in former mining areas around.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bionic µCTL brings microwaves to coal liquefaction

For the last few years Bionic has researched the possibilities of a fundamental change to the way coal liquefaction (CTL) is understood and has been done until today. The application of microwaves to the almost one hundred years old process of carbon hydrogenation with high pressure and a catalyst is making that change a reality. The basic process of direct coal-to-liquid conversion has been discovered first by the German scientist Friedrich Bergius, who received the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1931. The industrial application of the Bergius process supplied the German airforce during WW2 almost exclusively with much needed quality fuel from 1941.

Following is a most simple sketch of the Bergius-Pier process illustrating the logical lay out of the original coal liquefaction plants:

For more details on the principal Bergius process please check Wikipedia.

One of the microwave units used in the reactor
The Bionic microwave assisted version of the process has a number of impressive advantages compared to all earlier implementations which have been mostly abandoned for different reasons, but mainly due to the availability of cheap fossil oil (at the time) and the almost complete suspension of coal mining in Germany. As older implementations seem to come with environmental issues, with the  exception of South Africa and China even exploding oil prices did not revive interest in coal liquefaction. China however is said to invest 15 billion dollars in its current 5-year plan in liquefaction.

µCTL carbon liquefaction reactor vessel 
The Bionic process eliminates all emission problems of former plant designs. It combines a standard Bionic microfuel reactor like the mf60, which used for the production of a highly volatile carbon powder, with a patent pending liquefaction reactor designed from scratch, for synthesizing the liquid fuel products.

The highly sophisticated reactor vessel allows the application of microwaves to the reaction mass (a mix of the fine carbon powder with heavy oil recycled from the process) which is continuously rotating in a high pressure hydrogen atmosphere.

More details are revealed in this presentation:  Bionic Carbon Liquefaction Through Microwave Hydration.

Converting the char deriving from many industrial waste and biomass treatment processes using this method will maximize efficiency while further reducing overall carbon footprints.

Especially Bionic's own microfuel process is producing high quality char in addition to the liquid and gaseous fuel products. When using the microfuel process to treat waste materials like plastic waste or used tyres the char residue can today only be used as a drop-in solid fuel for the replacement of fossil coal. With biomass as feedstock the Bionic char product already has a high value as a soil amendment for carbon sequestration and top soil improvement. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jatropha for Dummies - Part 2 - The plant's future is non-toxic

Non-toxic jatropha fruit cluster
Fruit cluster on a non-toxic breeding plant (Bionic orchard, Ghana)
After lots of painful experience during the first generation of commercial Jatropha projects - attempting to exploit the toxic plants potential for biodiesel - many are skeptical regarding a possible success for this cop. Still, groups of professional plant developers have formed worldwide working to convert the wild species Jatropha curcas into a viable commercial energy crop. Combined with an ever increasing flow of scientific reports exploring all aspects of this promising species it can be seen by now: success will only be a matter of time.

While contemporary reports on Jatropha development usually keep staring at incumbent  farming projects which are still struggling with all the typical generation 1 problems, be it planting material or agronomic practices, Jatropha has long shown its enormous potential in all aspects of planting material improvement. The results are clearly visible in the breeding orchards around the world and in many insider reports.

The future of Jatropha is non-toxic, which will make it one of the most profitable crops for farmers ever planted. After pressing the oil from the seeds the remaining seed cake will be a highly valuable raw material for animal feed mixes exceeding even the protein content of soy meal. Jatropha seed meal was falsely considered inevitably toxic and difficult to detoxify. The solution to the problem is the creating of non-toxic cultivars based on wild accessions from the center of origin as parental material. Here at Bionic Palm we are among the world leaders in this sector of plant development...

Protein rich feed materials are in high demand around the world and increasingly expensive. Therefore non-toxic Jatropha is not only breaking the profitability barrier for Jatropha farming projects but also reversing the feed price squeeze in many tropical regions thus allowing poultry rearing and aquaculture to become good SME businesses ounce again.

There is a wide genetic diversity in Jatropha germplasm formerly unexploited which can be found at the center of origin. This allows successful breeding for improved planting material including the introduction of the non-toxic trait. Interspecific hybridization offers a second route to an increased genetic spread for selection of superior traits. Bionic Palm has been using both aspects systematically from the very beginning of the Jatropha Breeder 3.0 program.

Jatropha is ideal in support of advanced agroforestry concepts helping to reclaim depleted soil formerly used for mining and unsustainable farming. With a growing environmental awareness in developing countries requirements are increasing for mining operations to reduce their environmental impact including carbon emissions. Non-toxic Jatropha offers enormous possibilities to convert growing sustainability budgets from simple cost items into effective investments as mining operations are usually also large energy consumers.

Jatropha alleys for vegetable planting
Alleys of pruned Jatropha prepared for vegetable planting (Bionic test farm, Ghana)
Jatropha can play a major role in adaptation to the effects of climate change in the tropical and sub-tropical regions. Advanced Jatropha cultivars will exhibit an increased drought tolerance and offer capabilities to withstand the expected climatic changes in the tropics. Jatropha hedges planted in combination with food crops under irrigation will help protect the latter from the increasingly harsh environmental situation.

See also:
Jatropha for Dummies - Part 1 - The problem
Jatropha for Dummies - Part 3 - The Farming

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Bionic µBTL reactor type announced

Bionic microfuel mf60 core element expecting assembly
Over the last year the Bionic Fuel Group has designed a new small scale MWDP reactor mf60 which is currently under construction at Bionic's manufacturer Smeral Brno a.s. in the Czech Republic. One of the special features of the mf60 design is its capability to house a complete plant in up to 4 standard 40' containers, resulting in completely mobile MWDP processing plants. Combined with the relevant feedstock preparation modules and the necessary oil upgrading functions all MWDP feedstock types can be processed on this mobile platform. On average the unit is able to process 250kg of dry feedstock per hour.

As a reminder, MWDP, Bionic's microwave depolymerization technology economically converts organic materials like biomass, plastic waste, used tires and many more into high value liquid and solid fuels. The process utilizes a zeolite catalyst augmented by the application of modulated microwaves.

Once the core unit is completed it will undergo rigid test processing at the manufacturer's site, first internally and then under audit of a renown certification authority. The formal certification will greatly enhance funding options for several large microfuel projects currently in the pipeline. Selected clients will have the opportunity to see the unit in operation during this phase.

Subsequently the qualification plant will be adapted to fully simulate the process of plastic waste conversion. Extensive test and demonstration runs will be performed in order to fully qualify plastic waste as feedstock for large scale microfuel plants. This activity will form an important step towards a scale up process resulting in a full scale pilot plant to be installed at a waste treatment facility in Germany.

As still another step the equipment will thereafter go back to the manufacturer to get rigged up for the planned 4 container set up including all the auxiliary modules necessary for feedstock preparation and product upgrading. The included CHP does not only make the plant independent from external power supply but is also capable of converting all of the produced oil into electricity thus reducing disposal problems for shorter term demonstration runs. This fully mobile plant will go on tour to visit several of our long term potential clients for extensive on-site test and demonstration runs in preparation for long planned large plant orders.

Surprisingly we have already received a number of requests from clients who show high interest to acquire this size of plant for their own specialty purposes. Clean-up of contaminated soil and biochar production are only 2 of the potential commercial uses for this type of unit. Bionic expects to close a number of orders over the first 6 months of the year. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Jatropha patents and intellectual property

Recently we performed a simple patent search for "Jatropha". The result was quite stunning! Lots of patents have been granted or are under application regarding the commercial exploitation of this interesting plant.

So let's group them a little bit:
  1. Superior (or special) Jatropha cultivars and methods to create the same
    Includes several hybrid developments by Nandan and an attempt by SG Biofuels Ltd. to patent a male-sterile trait in Jatropha. (More about the latter follows below)
  2. Genetic manipulation of certain traits
    Specifically Joil's approach to improve Jatropha oil quality through the transfer of a certain gene sequence from Castor. (We keep arguing that the same result can be achieved by conservative breeding, no GMO necessary)
  3. Mass propagation of Jatropha
    Mainly but not exclusively about tissue culture, i.e. protocols for in-vitro vegetative propagation.
  4. Detoxification of Jatropha
    Several combinations of chemical and/or mechanical separation processes can do the job.
  5. Jatropha-to-fuel processing methods
    Special methods for producing biodiesel and other fuels from Jatropha and Jatropha oil respectively.
We started checking patent regulations to find out what can really be patented in and around a plant or better, what cannot be patented. And I can tell you, that's one of the most confusing quagmires our great politicians ever created. Anyway, there are 2 globally common denominators we can highlight here:
  1. No wild plant or trait of a wild plant can ever be protected by a patent (or plant breeders rights), even if it was discovered for the very first time.
  2. Any variety protected by a patent or other plant breeder rights can be used by other breeders for further breeding without any obligations to license the original material.
Now we are specifically looking at an SG Biofuels patent application regarding a "female-only" trait in Jatropha curcas which would have serious consequences for our Jatropha Breeder 3.0 platform and others if ever granted. The patent application claims a male-sterile trait in Jatropha which is described as the result of expert hybrid breeding and not further qualified by DNA fingerprinting. If hybrid crossing, as claimed, would be the only way known of obtaining this important trait for breeders, everyone would be out of luck by now. Fortunately for us and the industry, Bionic Palm is in possession of several male-sterile Jatropha plants which are direct descendants of wild Jatropha plants at the center of origin in Guatemala and Mexico. No breeding or crossing was ever involved in their creation.

Therefore above exclusion no1 applies: a trait present in a wild plant can never be patented. We will have to wait and monitor carefully, if patent authorities in any of the many countries where this application is running in parallel will overlook the disclosure by Bionic Palm and grant the patent. In this case a formal complaint will have to be filed within 9 months.

In our opinion this little case story reveals how dangerous the IP arena has become for everyone. And how risky it is, not to constantly monitor new applications in your field of work. Patents today are viewed very differently by different organizations. While most simply and rightly just want to protect their development work, some seem to be eager making the accumulation of patented IP the core of their business, often benefiting from the work of others in the process.

A few weeks ago we had not expected, that Jatropha plant development has started becoming a playing field for IP hawks like Information Technology or Mobile Communication. But that definitely seems to be the case...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Healthy soil is Bionic's focal point for 2013

At Bionic we have for years again and again discussed issues around the sustainable use of arable soil in more than one way. After all Bionic Fuel’s microfuel technology produces one of the most effective biochars available (besides the main product: liquid drop-in fuels), while Bionic Palm started more than 5 years ago to actively explore methods of sustainable and organic farming in tropical Africa. Soil fertility, i.e. the soils natural content of macro and micro nutrients required by practically all plants for a healthy development, is a major feature defining the usability of a stretch of available land.

Bio-Elite fertilizer production
Bio-Elite fertilizer production

Against that background it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that when the chance came up during 2012 at Bionic Lab in Germany we worked hard to develop a new cooperation implementing a patented bio fertilizer production technology for a 100% organic NPK substitute. Feedstock for the process is a combination of biomass and manure, treated with special fungi and bacteria over a period of 45 days. Opposed to common uses of composted biomass and animal manure as fertilizers which are difficult and risky to apply, the Bio-Elite process guarantees a completely normalized macro nutrient content, allowing the application of exact nutrient amounts as required. Typical negative effects of over- or under-fertilization are a thing of the past.

For quite some time now experts and researchers agree on the need to better reuse plant nutrients, as synthetic fertilizers are not only getting more and more expensive, they also contribute significantly to climate change and some of the required natural resources are quickly running out. Nature does recycle plant nutrients at an almost 100% rate, but with modern farming and food processing chains most nutrients end up anywhere but where they came from: the farm. It would be necessary to close the loop from waste management and manure treatment plants back to the farm. The key issue, as already mentioned above, is the fact that modern intensive farming requires a relatively precise calculation and application of the key nutrients.

Here is exactly the point where Bionic Lab’s new approach comes in: with the Bio-Elite process invented and patent by Bionic’s partner Wolfgang Wondrak (unfortunately the linked website is currently in German only). From 2013 Bionic will actively market the unique Bio-Elite process to its waste processing client base as an exciting addition to the microfuel waste-to-fuel conversion technology.

Regular mechanical treatment over a period of 45 days
Mechanical turning every few days

It is important to mention, that from the very beginning this new organic fertilizer is highly competitive against its synthetic rivals in terms of production cost. So this new fertilizer product is fully substitutive, organic, 100% climate neutral (if bio energy is used for the production and logistic processes) and even comes at a lower cost. No wonder, that after only a few months of unofficial marketing the interest from potential clients is already overwhelming.
Further information can be found on Bionic World.

Healthy soil is Bionic's focal point for 2013