Award Winning Application: Artificial Photosynthesis

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16 February 2021

Award-winning application by a customer of PCS

At PCS, we are often impressed and amazed by what our customers are capable of, once they put our products to practice. For us – like you, no doubt – it is all about pushing process boundaries and maximizing process outcomes through the use of our innovative precision control products. And as we have demonstrated in other application notes or case studies, we get all the more passionate if these customer projects result in innovations for a greener, more sustainable world!

A good example of such an interesting customer project, is the award-winning research project between Siemens Energy and Evonik (both in Germany) around artificial photosynthesis. And we are not alone in this excitement – the project turned out to be a real winner!

Background of the Rheticus project

Researchers in Evonik’s innovation unit Creavis have been working with Siemens (and others) on the so-called Rheticus project. As explained in more detail on the Rheticus website, Evonik and Siemens have joined forces to enable the combination of CO2  electrolysis and gas fermentation in a kind of “artificial photosynthesis”. The project resulted in a new pilot plant in Marl, Germany. Linking their earlier innovations around fermentation and electrolysis offers the possibility of making power from renewable energies. As written on the Creavis website: “Electrolysis that could be powered by solar energy produces syngas from CO2  and water; in the subsequent fermentation process, bacteria convert the syngas to butanol or hexanol, specialty chemicals that are required for specialty polymers or dietary supplements, for example”. The project is thus contributing greatly to the global effort and ambition to minimize the use of fossil fuels and to reduce CO2  pollution.

Precision pressure control challenges related to the project

With this project, the customer faced a complex absolute pressure and differential pressure control challenge: They were in need of a pressure control setup that would control the absolute pressure and at the same time control the delta-P between the different chambers in the process. PCS was able to supply them with a “one-stop-shop” solution for this project, combining 3 Equilibar HF units with 3 different pilot pressure controllers​, each serving the exact requirements defined by the customer for their designated positions in the process. Not only was the technology supplied by PCS validated by the customer to be “superior to conventional valve technologies”, with the solutions provided by PCS the customer was also able to avoid crystallization issues related to salt in the electrolysis process. ​

​And the winner is …

The project got nominated and awarded in the Bavarian Energy Award 2020 in the category Products and Applications, we recommend the short video below (scroll down for the audio transcript) and we are proud that we were able to support our valued customers in their success!

Translation of German information in this video:
Audio: As part of the Rheticus research project, Siemens Energy and Evonik are developing a new type of technology platform that consists of 2 core components: A CO electrolyser from Siemens Energy and a bioreactor from Evonik. With the help of carbon dioxide as raw material, microorganisms and electricity, preferably from renewable energy, specialty chemicals are produced. Based on this technology, a pilot plant was put into operation in the chemical park in Marl in August 2020. The use of CO electrolysis in chemical production should make it economically attractive and make an important contribution to the implementation of the energy transition.

End screen info: The award-winning project film was created on behalf of the Bavarian State Ministry for Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy by Bayern Innovativ GmbH in cooperation with the Pixel Campus.

The full press release can be found here.