5 Minutes With… Dhivya Puri, Senior Technical Lead at Fiberight.
by Dave Songer (Bio-Based World News) “The milestones and professional growth I’ve achieved in this role are above and beyond what I could have accomplished in academia within the same time frame.”
Fiberight is a UK- and US-based small and medium-sized enterprise that’s developed technology to recover value from municipal solid waste (MSW), rescuing it from landfill and incineration. The company also recovers traditional recyclables like rigid plastics, metals and glass and two organics streams: paper waste and food waste to put it to better use. The food waste is solubilised and processed through anaerobic digestion to produce energy and clean water, while the paper is broken down to sugars via enzyme hydrolysis – sugars that can then be used to make bio-fuels and bio-chemicals.
The senior technical lead from Fiberight, Dhivya Puri, joins Bio-Based World News for the latest 5 Minutes With… ahead of the company building its first commercial plant that’s due to become operational by around January 2019. In the interview Dhivya gives fascinating insights on how she made the move from the lecture hall to the office, the opportunities facing the bio-based industry as she sees them and why this industry can sometimes be a little messy.
I had been previously worked in research or R&D in both industry and academia and I sort of fell into a PhD, which was sponsored by @fiberight. Upon completion of that in 2014 the transition through to working for Fiberight seemed like a natural fit – it’s not often one gets the opportunity to develop a process in their PhD and then see it through to a commercial reality.
I’m the senior technical lead for Fiberight and although it is primarily a technical role, due to the small size of the company I have the opportunity to be involved in other business development activities also – you pitch in where you can. I manage all of our organics-related R&D activities including the running of our UK R&D pilot facility. This role also includes looking after our IP portfolio, developing new project ideas to optimise or increase the value of our process and the development of relationships with potential offtake partners.
I really enjoy my work, every day is different and challenging – it’s almost like a hobby. We have developed a process that has the potential to revolutionise the bio-based industry and also deliver a completely new concept for the waste industry, allowing for the recovery of valorisation of over 80% of the materials in MSW. Thus, I find this line of work very fulfilling even if I do end up covered in waste sometimes!
As for long-term, the biggest changes will be bringing down the cost. There have been a number of failures in the industry but hopefully this means that the next generation of technologies/products will be cost-effective as they are able to build on the technological and commercial advancements made by those who have failed in the past. For example, we’re currently developing a pathway to convert our sugar into a particular chemical product. For this we’re able to draw on expertise that’s been developed over the last 15 years but hasn’t yet been successfully implemented in industry. Due to the use of waste as a feedstock rather than other biomass sources we should be able to reduce a number of input costs including biomass and energy. This, combined with the advancements in the chemicals’ production, will increase the financial viability of the product and hopefully allow for commercial exploitation in the near future. READ MORE