22 Juli 2016

New insights in furanic intermediates and aromatic derivatives from biomass

New project aims to create applied knowledge for the production of furans and furan-derived biobased aromatics from various sources

Wageningen UR and TNO join forces in a new research project: Furanic Intermediates and Aromatic Derivatives from biomass or briefly FIAD. The project aims to create applied knowledge for the production of furans, and furan-derived biobased aromatics, from various sources of carbohydrate-based biomass. A number of important partners along the value chain – Avantium, Beckers, Covestro and Klüber Lubrication – will participate in the project.

Access to sufficient sustainable raw materials together with flexibility in supply and application are crucial for a transition of a society based upon fossil resources into a sustainable, biobased, society. Such a transition can only be successful in case ultimately the agro-food and chemical industries join forces in the development of such new technology.

Currently chemicals and materials produced by the chemical and polymer processing industry are to a large extent (almost 40 percent) based upon aromatic building blocks. Aromatic building blocks are being produced in quantities exceeding 120 million tonnes a year and used in a wide variety of applications differing from packaging to paints and coatings, lubricants, automotive, electronics and personal care products. Substitution of fossil-based aromatics by biobased aromatics would result in a substantial decrease of CO2-emissions. In addition to drop-in products chemicals so derived also open up the possibility of creating novel chemicals and materials with unprecedented properties.

Furanic intermediates and aromatics from biomass

The project will develop generic knowledge for the conversion of sugars into furans and their subsequent conversion into biobased aromatics. Chemo-catalytic approaches to convert furans into biobased aromatics will be explored as well as the initial stages of process development. Specific bioderived aromatics will be tested by the industrial partners in their application areas. According to project leader Nadine Wennersbusch: ‘We anticipate that based upon this generic knowledge new ideas and application possibilities will be created. Once a sound proof-of-concept for the technology has been created, this could also be very profitable to the agro-food industry in finding new outlets for their main side streams’. These streams can include a.o. sugar, sugarbeetpulp, bagasse, cornstover and wheat bran.

Participating organisations

The project is part of the Wageningen UR and TNO Strategic Innovation Programme ‘Biorefinery for raw material availability and flexibility’ as well as part of the Shared Research Center Biorizon that aims to commercially produce biobased aromatics by 2025. In this project the Knowledge Institutes cooperate with the industrial partners Avantium, Beckers, Covestro and Klüber Lubrication.

Source: Wageningen UR, press release, 2016-07-14.

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