Get Ready to Flip

Local inventor Taisto Raussi is tackling the utilization of biomasses – as part of EU-funded top research project. 

In the Finnish mythology, Sampo is a miracle machine that can churn out just about anything you happen to desire – from gold to copper and beyond. Master inventor Taisto Raussi is not out to construct Sampo, but there is something similar in his “miracle machine” project.  

Raussi is currently building a slow pyrolysis demonstration plant, which means, basically, that one feeds wood into the machine, the machine heats up, delicately processes the material, and something altogether different comes out. And, no, it’s not gold, but valuable bio products none the less – such as key ingredients for future fuels or fertilisers.

“We will be able to take regular wood such as birch and separate the material into four different categories that form, in turn, the foundation for the next level of development.” The demo plant is also fully mobile, meaning that it can go where the raw materials are.

Getting the Goods

After Raussi’s machine works its magic, it’s up to the scientists at research institutes such as VTT and LUKE to look into the properties of the processed wood materials and see what can be done to push them forward.  The goal is to take this bioeconomy Sampo and provide a boost to the local forest industry by helping it diversify its portfolio considerably.

While Raussi’s company, Raussin Energia Oy, is a small company, he’s clearly “playing with the big boys” in this project. In the four-year Mobile Flip project – funded by the EU to the tune of almost 10 million euros – there are participating research institutions from France, Sweden and Finland, one big corporate partner (the French RAGT) – and only four SMEs from all around Europe.

Ready for Big Time?

In addition to Raussin Energia, this rather exclusive list includes BioGold (Estonia), Chimar (Greece) and SPC (Sweden). Involvement in the project also meant receiving € 600,000 for R&D.   

“It’s something that a country boy just can’t understand,” Taisto Raussi says with grin.

In reality, Raussi’s company made the list purely through hard work and commitment. Having been in collaboration with VTT for years, Raussi was interested in more international cooperation as well.

“We have soldiered on with these types of projects, building our expertise. When an opportunity appeared in the form of Mobile Flip, we were up for the challenge,” he says.

Boosting Biomass

Mobile Flip is part of Horizon 2020 and a “big deal” on the EU level.  After all, Mobile Flip brings together the industry, SMEs and research institutions, in order to generate new, emerging solutions for the environmental, social, and economic challenges – zeroing in on the growing demand for sustainable and innovative use of biomass raw materials.

So how did Raussi get through all bureaucracy and paper work that was required to get into the project? – Raussi reveals that he had an ace up his sleeve: Kouvola Innovation was there from the beginning, helping Raussin Energia handle correspondence with the EU players.

Expertise Wins the Day

The actual application was a clear winner, scoring top marks (missing the maximum points by only 0.5). Risto Wallin from Kouvola Innovation says that the achievement is remarkable in two ways:

“First of all, we don’t have that many companies here that would be able to apply for these high-profile EU projects – and to apply and actually make it with flying colours is quite unique,” Wallin says, crediting the long-term commitment and vision of Taisto Raussi for the success.

“This project shows that it is possible to take your ideas to the highest levels, if you put in the work,” Wallin says. Kinno’s role was to provide support along the application process – and beyond.

Start Your Engines!

But what is the current status of the project? – Raussi reports that he is hard at work planning the demo plant and expecting to roll it out in a few months:

“We will be able to start testing in the spring of 2016,” he says confidently. “We will begin with Finnish wood material and expand from there.”

Slow pyrolysis is but one of key technologies used in Mobile Flib – also pelletizing, torrefaction, hydrothermal pretreatment and carbonisation are used to break down biomasses. According to Raussi, his “Sampo” represents a trickier department here, since the temperatures required for slow pyrolysis are quite high.

“It’s one challenging machine we’re working on,” he says, while sounding not a bit disappointed.  

 

The EU-funded Mobile Flip will run from January 2015 to December 2018. Taisto Raussi promises his slow pyrolysis machine is ready for a test run in spring 2016.