On March 9, Sweetwater achieved a major milestone with a 24-hour test of the commercial-scale Sunburst system, deconstructing hardwood into sugars and lignin in Estonia. This demonstrates Sweetwater’s technology scales extremely well to commercial sizes while operating reliably and delivering better-than-expected results.

“It’s a great day to be part of Sweetwater,” said Director of Commercialization Sharon Samjitsingh from Estonia. “I’m very happy to share that today at 10:22 am Estonian time, we completed the first 24-hour commercial-scale run of Sunburst, something that’s never been done before, and it was unbelievably smooth.”

The Sweetwater team, consisting of Samjitsingh, CTO Scott Tudman, and operator Taylor Martin, has been on assignment in Estonia for seven weeks, prepping the Sunburst system to operate around the clock as the heart of the Sweetwoods demonstration plant. The €43.2 million project Sweetwoods project is the result of nine companies from six EU-member states, which won a €20.96 million Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) grant to create new industrial value chains using sustainable hardwood as a resource. The Sweetwoods plant uses sustainable hardwood to demonstrate how Sunburst, in combination with innovative enzymatic solutions, can provide high-quality lignin and wood sugars at an industrial scale.

The Sweetwater team also had significant success in the quality of the Sunburst output.

“The conversion yields during the 24-hour test were better than before because we could use our new experience to fine-tune some aspects of the process,” said Samjitsingh. “We had the opportunity to test feedstock in different states and conditions and were pleasantly surprised by the robustness of our technology.”

In a Sweetwoods press release, Graanul Biotech’s R&D Manager Dr. Peep Pitk summed up the achievement well: “This means we have created a strong basis for near-term realisation of supply of sustainable feedstocks for different biomaterials and biochemicals production to create industry-changing new value chains, where wood as sustainable raw material plays a vital role.”