Photo by Christian Ove Carlsson

New research centre aims to improve industrial processes and equipment

Monday 21 Mar 16
by Lotte Grandorf


Lars Georg Kiørboe
DTU Chemical Engineering
+45 45 25 28 57


Brit Bille Albrektsen
International Partnership Manager
Office for Study Programmes and Student Affairs
+45 45 25 10 66

Main activities of PILOT PLANT

  • The large scale experimental process activities of PILOT PLANT will be conducted with a strong focus on industrial practice.

  • As a result, the main activities include unit operations, reaction engineering, process control, process and plant design, instrumentation, automation and industrial measuring technology, scale-up and scale down and batch versus continuous processes.

  • Special focus areas are fermentation mainly from a process point-of-view and particle technology.

Technical competences

  • Design and build large scale plants (engineering, construction)
  • Unit operations (theory and practise)

  • Industrial chemical processes (design a total process)

  • Operational experience, solving practical process problems

  • Project management

  • Plant safety

  • GMP (Good Manufacturing Practise)

  • Wide industry contact

This year, a new research centre has been established at DTU Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. The centre, with the eloquent short name PILOT PLANT, will be researching and teaching within experimental process and equipment design – and that is good news for students, researchers and companies.

Whenever a new medicine is invented or a new way of turning biomass into chemicals, materials or energy sees the light of day, it is the result of a process. More often than not, this process is highly complex consisting of many unit operations and reactions each playing a specific and important role in creating the perfect mix of process conditions.

In food and pharma for instance, reliability in the process is essential as even a slight change may cause danger to the consumer. Similarly, production safety is critical in order to avoid causing harm to plant workers or to the environment.

The new research centre aims to improve these processes by giving students, researchers and companies an opportunity to test them in real life conditions in a large scale pilot plant.

A pilot plant with state-of-the-art facilities

The research centre may be new, but the pilot plant in which it operates is not. In fact, the pilot plant is the result of a long strategic process. For many years, DTU Chemical Engineering has invested in developing its pilot scale facilities with state-of-the-art equipment.

“When other universities were cutting their investments in pilot plants, we were increasing our efforts, and that means we have some quite unique facilities today. And, the large scale facilities are really needed”, says Head of the new PILOT PLANT research centre, Lars Kiørboe.

“There are too many ideas that never go beyond laboratory level because of practical problems associated with upscaling and implementation in full scale. There are also many processes that - because of lack of knowhow - are not implemented in a very optimal way”, he continues.

More competitive partners

According to Lars Kiørboe, SME’s can also benefit from the new research centre as they often do not have the opportunity to establish pilot plants whenever they need to test a new process. At the PILOT PLANT research centre, SME’s will get access to a wide range of units staffed with experts.

By providing access to research facilities and expert knowledge of industrial processes the new research centre aims to help improve the market positions of the partners of DTU Chemical Engineering.

“Our research is aimed at improving existing industrial processes by making them more efficient, more economical and not least, greener. In this way, we hope to contribute to making our partners in the industry more competitive”, says Lars Kiørboe.

Educations that put theory into practice

According to Lars Kiørboe who together with his team of colleagues from PILOT PLANT teaches courses in unit operations, the competitiveness of the industry will not come only from researching processes - the processes also have to be operated properly. That involves educating competent engineers that are not notoriously tied to their desk.

Therefore, the courses that are conducted in the pilot plant have a strong focus on practical application. Furthermore, the purpose of the courses is to make sure that future engineers have the necessary practical background in terms of knowing how processes are connected, how to design and construct processing plants, equipment and components and how to work with large plants themselves.

“It’s the combination of theory and practice that makes a real difference, because the engineers that we’re educating are ready to go straight to work, and that’s going to be a great benefit for companies now and in the future”, explains Kiørboe.

Current projects

The project portfolio of the PILOT PLANT research centre currently includes participation in projects on for instance microbial conversion of slaughterhouse waste, syngas fermentation and downstream processing of the liquids products, along with fermentation experiments for the new bio-tech cluster, BIOPRO.

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