May 20-22 – Lucas

My name is Lucas Flynn, and was born in Flint, Michigan. I moved to East Lansing at 18, shortly after graduating high school to pursue an education in an alternative energy related field. I settled on the BE program, focusing in bio-based energy engineering. While I spent last summer working in the food processing industry, my main career interest is in the energy industry. I would love to work for a company that is implementing alternative and renewable energy resources to supply power to the national electric grid.

Me with a beautiful backdrop of the Piteålven River rapids

Me with a beautiful backdrop of the Piteålven River rapids

May 20th

May 20th marked our last day spent in Sweden. The day started off with a tour of Professor Yvonne Aitomäki’s laboratory at Luleå University of Technology. Professor Aitomäki is a member of the Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics in the material science division. Her research focuses on composite materials from renewable resources, including expertise in wood thermoplastic composites, along with fibers consisting of nano-cellulose. Professor Aitomäki showed the group multiple examples and uses of these materials, including lightweight cellulose and polymer composites used for a range of products from hockey pucks to inner car door panels. Ms. Aitomäki also showed us a few different machines used in her lab, from small scale grinders that help to give easier access to cellulose in wood to machines that measure mechanical properties of the new materials (hardness, toughness, strength, etc.). These materials relate to bioenergy and sustainability because they are partly or wholly made from woody biomass, so they have a lower carbon footprint. These materials can also be combusted in a combined heat and power plant to help create energy after they are first used for their original purpose. A quick overview of  nano-cellulosic materials can be found at LTU general information on wood and bionanocomposites (1).

After the group toured the lab, we began our traveling excursion to Germany which continued until may 21st. We boarded  an overnight train in Luleå that took us to Arlanda airport near Stockholm. While viewing the Swedish country side on the train it was easy to see that the country has a massive availability of both woody biomass and flowing rivers that help to create it’s large share of renewable energies. 

Luleå, Sweden. (2)

Sweden woody biomass - train view

Sweden woody biomass – train view

May 21st

The 21st was a very relaxed day for the group. We arrived at the airport very early in the morning and had to catch a  flight to Frankfurt, Germany around 10 am. After arriving in Germany the group had to wait for Dr. Kirk to arrive. Dr. Kirk was planning on meeting the group at the airport upon arrival, but ran into some mechanical problems with the rental car. While this delayed our drive from Frankfurt to Munich, we still arrived at the Meininger hotel in the early evening with enough time left in the day to do some exploring in the city. While on the road from Frankfurt to Munich, multiple renewable energy technologies were spotted, including photovoltaic panel fields along the side of the highway, and multiple sites containing wind turbines. General information on Wind turbines can be found here (3) while general photo-voltaic information can be found here (4).

Example of both photovoltaics and wind turbines in Germany. (5)

20140523_135906

Meininger Hotel

May 22nd

On May 22nd the academics continued. In the morning the group traveled to ROPA, a company that specializes in the manufacturing of agricultural equipment. ROPA specializes in sugar beet harvesting, and produces a multitude of different machines used to harvest beets along with a machine that helps to harvest potatoes. ROPA started with a farmer, Hermann Paintner, who decided to build his own beet harvester in 1972 because he was unhappy with the beet harvesting process at that point in time. After many other farmers came and saw how successful his beet harvester was, they asked him to build similar harvesters for their use and voilà, the company was born. ROPA also owns many beet farms, and uses some of their harvested beets as a feedstock for their biogas production. This plant trip helped the group to see the complexity of the feedstock supply chain involved in the creation of biogas. The following photos depict the group learning about how the different agricultural harvesting machines work. For more information on ROPA, visit The ROPA Website (6).

Mario G. posing in front of the ROPA's original beat harvester

Mario G. posing in front of the ROPA’s original beat harvester built in 1972

ROPA's Tiger model beat harvester

ROPA’s Tiger model beat harvester

Tour guide informing the group on how the Tiger works

Tour guide informing the group on how the Tiger works

The following photos depict ROPA’s anaerobic digestion system used to produce biogas, which is then combusted in an engine to produce electricity and heat. General anaerobic digestion information can be found in the biogas-anaerobic digestion page (7) of the blog, and also from this Germany Energy Agency biogas overview  (8). The second photo labeled ROPA’s Anaerobic digestion system part 2 (fixed film) depicts 3 separate columns that are fed into the larger tank. The original design of this system was a fixed-film digester, but due to high solid contents of the feedstock the process was modified. Overtime biogas feedstock often changes, and the digestion system often has to be modified to have optimum biogas output with the new feedstock. Now only the column shown in the first photo is used in the process, due to the high solid contents in the feedstock . More information on fixed film digester designs can be found in this EPA report (9).

ROPA's anaerobic digester system

ROPA’s anaerobic digester system    part 1

ROPA's anaerobic digester system

ROPA’s anaerobic digester system    part 2 (fixed film)

ROPA's biogas run engine

ROPA’s biogas run engine

ROPA Bio-energy

ROPA Bio-energy

In the afternoon the group took a cultural visit to the memorial site of Dachau concentration camp for political prisoners. This camp was the first of it’s kind, and all future camps built by the Third Reich were modeled after the Dachau design. The group found the tour of the camp to be an extremely humbling and meaningful experience. Here is a link to more information on Dachau concentration camp. The following photos were taken during the tour of the Dachau Memorial Site.

 

Aerial view of Dachau 1945

Aerial view of Dachau 1945

One religious memorial dedicated to sufferers of the camp

One religious memorial dedicated to sufferers of the camp

A second religious memorial

A second religious memorial

Dachau fence and watchower

Dachau fence and watch tower

References:

(1) Aitomäki, Y., & Oksman, K. (n.d.). Quantifying reinforcing efficiency of nanocellulose fibres – Publications – LTU – Luleå University of Technology. Quantifying reinforcing efficiency of nanocellulose fibres – Publications – LTU – Luleå University of Technology. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://pure.ltu.se/portal/en/publications/quantifying-reinforcing-efficiency-of-nanocellulose-fibres(295ab8d4-aea5-4547-b1a5-1f80c28f0d48).html

(2) Tour-Smart Limited. (n.d.). TourSmart. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://www.tour-smart.co.uk/destinations/sweden/sweden-%20Lule%C3%A5/

(3) International Energy Agency. (2013). Technology Roadmap: Wind energy 2013 edition. Retrieved April 30, 2014 from http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/Wind_2013_Roadmap.pdf

(4) International Energy Agency. (2010). Technology Roadmap: Solar photovoltaic energy. Retrieved April 30, 2014 from http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/pv_roadmap.pdf

(5) Asian competitors shadow German solar industry. (n.d.). Asian competitors shadow German solar industry. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://phys.org/news169792072.html

(6) ROPA – Innovative manufacturers of sugar beet harvesters and cleaner/loaders in Europe | ROPA Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau. (n.d.). ROPA – Innovative manufacturers of sugar beet harvesters and cleaner/loaders in Europe | ROPA Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://www.ropa-maschinenbau.de/en/company/ropa-%E2%80%93-innovative-manufacturers-sugar-beet-harvesters-and-cleanerloaders-europe

(7) Bioenergy Group, M. S. (n.d.). Biogas – Anaerobic Digestion. Renewable Bioenergy Systems. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from https://deandse2014.wordpress.com/topics/biogas-anaerobic-digestion/

(8) dena. (2013). Biomethane –The energy system’s all-rounder. Retrieved April 30, 2014 from http://www.dena.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Publikationen/Erneuerbare/Dokumente/energy_systems_allrounder_2013.pdf

(9) Wilkie, A. (2000, September 1). Fixed Film Anaerobic Digester. . Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://www.epa.gov/agstar/documents/Fixed_Film_Anaerobic_Digester.pdf

(10) Visitor Information. (n.d.). – Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/index-e.html

 

 

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One response to “May 20-22 – Lucas

  1. In your paragraph that you talked about ROPA’s anaerobic digestion setup you stated
    “Overtime biogas feedstock often changes, and the digestion system often has to be modified to have optimum biogas output with the new feedstock.”
    If feedstock is likely to change and therefore render parts of your equipment inoperable, or feasibly useless, how can one justify the upfront costs of constructing a plant with such uncertainty? In this particular instance the management team of ROPA worked with a few companies about which anaerobic digestion setup would be best for them, but then the equipment did not even work properly with the predetermined feedstock. There just seems to be so much uncertainty with technology like this that leaves much to speculate. Do you feel there should be a good general breakdown of which technologies work best for certain regions/feedstocks, or do you think people that choose to invest in this type of technology will just have to adapt as they move along with their production?

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