Dr. Silvia Tedesco
An assessment of paper sludge valorisation to energy and a water substitute in concrete via anaerobic digestion.
I have a BEng and an MSc in Industrial and Management Engineering from the Polytechnic of Bari, Italy. I then received my Italian qualification to CEng in 2010. In my Ph.D. sponsored by IRCSET (Ireland) I optimised mechanical pretreatment techniques for increased generation of Biogas for renewable and sustainable energy production, title awarded by Dublin City University in 2013. After that I was a postdoc and a part-time lecturer in the same university for two years, working on seaweed bioenergy and biorefining. I then joined MMU’s Department of Engineering and now teach on UG courses in Sustainable Product Design and Design Engineering, and Sustainable Energy Systems/Engineering Sustainability at MSc level.
I am passionate about the importance of the bioeconomy and that humanity lives in a more sustainable and environmentally cognizant manner. I am playing an active role in achieving these goals through my teaching and, in particular, through my scientific research which is focused on using biomass and waste organic materials to produce the energy, fuels, and chemicals for which we are currently over-reliant on non-renewable resources. In collaboration with a number of international partners from industry and academia, I’m currently expanding my work to circular economy applications for co-production of green platform chemicals and bioenergy from biomass. I’m also an active member of the BBSRC’s Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBBs): EBnet (Environmental Biotechnology) and HVB (High Value Biorenewables) networks.
I am part of the Low Carbon Fuels and Transportation (LCFT) cross-disciplinary research group at Manchester Metropolitan University and my research has also featured significant involvement with SMEs, having collaborated with companies in Ireland and the UK. I have secured grants from a number of bodies in the UK and Ireland (e.g. Science Foundation Ireland, BBSRC, Innovate UK, SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub) and am currently preparing for a further round of grant proposal submissions to further advance the art in biomass conversion and valorisation. I am open to collaboration with interested parties that share my enthusiasm for the bioeconomy, particularly in international proposals.
The pulp and paper industry is one of the world’s most energy intensive industrial sectors, with the paper drying process accounting for about 2/3 of the overall energy used in a typical paper mill, with the heat predominantly being produced by burning natural gas. In particular, nearly 10% of the globally recycled paper is lost in the form of cellulose-rich paper crumbs, which are an ideal substrate for waste-to-energy recovery via anaerobic digestion. This study demonstrates this biological conversion technology enables a cumulative production of 163 ml CH4 gVS-1, where the methane content in the biogas is 62%, therefore adequate for bioenergy production in co-generation units. Subsequently, the post-digestion residue (digestate) exhibits promising potential to become an effective water substitute for the construction industry, guaranteeing structural standards (C32/40) are met after a 3-month period of curing age with a 25%-50% grade of water replacement and the use of plasticiser to improve the concrete’s workability.