The Lehigh University Energy Research Center (ERC) has been awarded a new $3.5 million project by the US Department of Energy (DOE) for the development of advanced technology for rapid detection and analysis of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) streams. This project will be part of a $34 million effort from the Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO) of the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) to support high-impact research and development to improve and produce biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts. The ERC will lead a team that includes the Energy Research Company (ERCo), DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), ThermoChem Recovery International (TRI), Covanta Energy, the University of Toledo, and SpG Consulting. Lehigh participants include Dr. Carlos Romero (PI) and Zheng Yao from the ERC, and Prof. Farrah Moazeni from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is a very heterogeneous material, with large variability in its physical, chemical and biological characteristics. This poses significant challenges in utilizing it as a feedstock for producing biofuels and bioproducts. The proposed technology will be based on Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and Raman Spectroscopy - operating simultaneously-, to provide real-time, in-situ spectra for further analysis by Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms. This project aims at engineering and building an integrated system, including hardware and software, for in-situ demonstration at TRI’s MSW-biofuels pilot plant. The proposed project supports BETO’s goal of innovation to accelerate feedstock technologies that would propel a bio-economy, by allowing real-time characterization of MSW feedstock for feed-forward process control of downstream biofuel production processes.