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UK company teams up with Plymouth University to improve AD processes

Plymouth University is working with New Generation Biogas, a Devon, UK, company, to hone the design of its anaerobic digestion (AD) system.

By giving New Generation Biogas (NGB) access to its facilities and expertise, Plymouth University (PU) has helped the Totnes-based firm observe the microbes that transform waste close-up and understand what makes them thrive.

NGB used the world-class facilities at Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC), based on PU’s main campus, to capture vital information on the microbes.

PEMC created high-resolution electron microscopy images of the microbes, so the NGB team could see how the micro-organisms establish themselves in AD mechanisms. 

Since observing the tiny bugs up-close, NGB has been able to improve the design of its Archemax AD process, which the team manufactures on-site and sells to small- to medium-sized farms.

This is a faster and more efficient design, resulting in up to 30% higher yields than more conventional units, PU says.

Archemax was shortlisted for the UK AD & Biogas Industry Awards 2015.

NGB and PU are now embarking on a bigger collaboration, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), which will see a KTP Associate, along with PU academics, working with the firm to get an in-depth understanding of how best to manage the microbes and increase the performance of Archemax further.

Stirling Paatz, co-founder and director of NGB says the insights the company got from PEMC had had a large impact on its business. 

‘Not only did the results help us make immediate improvements to our designs, making our product more efficient, they also showed us how we might benefit from future collaborations with our local University,’ she says.