Transforming organic waste to valuable chemicals

The project aim is to develop heterogonous catalytic routes to synthesising organic products employing black solider fly larvae (BSFL) in insect biocatalysis to provide biomass as a chemical feedstock. Of main focus for the project are target product species such as green solvents and liquid fuels formed via catalytic esterification, together with high value oil derivative products.

In the UK 15 million tonnes of organic waste is disposed to landfill every year, while in developing economies organic waste constitutes over 60% of all municipal solid waste. Of this organic waste, UK supermarkets dispose of 115,000 tonnes of unsold food totalling £230m of edible waste. The industrial partner Entomics Biosystems ltd. has developed a platform to transform waste via insect biocatalysis using BSFL. The BSFL feed on organic waste, from food waste to manure, with up to 30% of their final mass comprising organic oils. The oil is a potential feedstock for the synthesis of fuels and valuable chemicals.

The project will focus on developing catalytic routes to the valorisation of these oils, with a primary target of investigation being the generation of sustainable bio-solvents. The synthesis of other bulk chemicals such as liquid fuels and high-value oil derivatives will be examined.

Outreach with industry

Eleanor L O’Doherty


Dr James McGregor

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering