Conference Notes EU Events

Lignocellulose – Lignin & Cellulose

Presentations given during the International Conference on Bio-Based Materials May 2018

Chairman: Gudbrand Rødsrud, Borregaard AS (NO)


Prof. Dr. Ludo Diels, VITO (BE) Membrane Separation Technology as a Valuable and Efficient Tool in the Value Chain of Wood Chemicals and Materials 

Bio-based chemicals are expected to grow significantly and increase their share of the global chemical production in the coming years. Today nearly all aromatic chemicals and building blocks originate from fossil oil, whereas lignin – nature’s second most abundant polymer after cellulose – could provide a valuable renewable aromatic resource for the chemical industry. Conversion of presently underutilized lignin by-products (e.g. from pulp and paper industries) into high performance biomaterials calls for development of new and/or optimized process technologies. In this respect, cost-effective downstream separation and purification processes are of utmost importance. Generally, membrane processes can be considered a “natural” technology for separation of complex biomass streams. Thanks to their low energy requirements, mild processing conditions, scalability, moderate cost to performance ratio and flexibility in equipment design, membranes are a highly attractive separation technology for tomorrow’s lignocellulosic biorefineries. VITO’s research activities are dedicated to valorization of biomass through conversion of lignocellulose into value-added bio-aromatics, primarily for use as building blocks within the chemical industry. Depolymerization of lignin typically results in complex mixtures comprising a wide array of phenolics, bearing a variety of oxygen-based functionalities and covering a broad range of molecular weights. However, in many cases, valorization of these lignols can only be pursued from well-defined fractions. In this context, the principal focus is the development and demonstration of membrane processes for fractionation and purification of lignins and lignin degradation fragments to enable the use of these molecules in chemical and materials applications. VITO is co-initiator of Biorizon, an industry driven Shared Research Center, focusing on technology development for the production of functionalized biobased aromatics for performance materials, chemicals & coatings supported by a Roadmap, inspired by an industry driven community. As the leading institute, VITO coordinates the development of lignin derived bioaromatics by its own technology and collaboration with many different technology providers ( Being involved in various national (e.g. ArboRef, MAIA) and international (e.g. BIO-HArT) running initiatives in which different depolymerization processes of wood/lignin are envisaged, more insight is gained in the potential of membrane processes in the value chain of wood/lignin towards biobased aromatics. The separation efficiency of commercial polymeric and ceramic membranes as well as in-house developed functionalized ceramic membraes with carefully selected molecular weight cut-offs is evaluated and demonstrated at a larger scale aiming at a proof-of-concept of the membrane-based fractionation/purification. In this talk, the potential of membrane processes in different aspects of the wood-to-aromatics value chain will be illustrated through some recent case studies. The potential applicability of the resulting fractions of lignin derivatives in polymer applications will be discussed.

Dr. David Norman, Eastman Chemical Company (US) A Hundred Years of Tenacious Innovation: Sustainable and Versatile Eastman Cellulose Ester Polymers

Since the 1920s, Eastman Chemical Company has been the global leader in transforming cellulosic feedstocks into high performance cellulose esters for hundreds of applications. Eastman continues to build upon this broad knowledge by developing competitive solutions for high performance polymer needs for today’s circular economies. From its broad expertise in cellulose ester chemistry, world-class scale-up and manufacturing capabilities, and in-depth market insight, Eastman is offering partners an opportunity to explore its versatile cellulose ester portfolio and its adaptive approach to co-innovation. This presentation will introduce the audience to Eastman’s sustainable polymer solutions and highlight the tunability, processing, form factors, applications and functionally enabled by our cellulose based materials.

Dr. Hans Øvrebø, Borregaard AS (NO) Experience from the First Year of Running the Exilva Plant and Market Potentials for the Products

In 2006 Borregaard initiated a targeted project for revealing new potentials for their specialty cellulose. Several radical innovation projects were evaluated and Microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) was identified as one of the promising candidates. Ten years later Borregaard has started its operations of the world’s first commercial scale plant for manufacturing of the MFC. The MFC has since its birth proven itself as a potent rheology modifier, as well as displaying highly interesting physical functionalities like improved strength and barrier potentials. This is giving rise to many new applications and product developments. Dr Øvrebøs presentation will review Borregaards development of Exilva and the challenges of innovating both the product, process and market will be highlighted.

Jukka Kantola, KaiCell Fibers LTD. (FI) Forest Industry Reaching out to Textile Fibres

As the world population keeps growing and living standards improve in many third world countries, there is an ever-increasing demand for textiles and textile fibres. The global textile market currently amounts to about 90 Mtons per annum, but is projected to exceed 140 Mtons by 2025, as depicted below. Textile fiber markets are dominated by synthetic fibers accounting for 70% of the total. As not renewable materiel even bigger problem is that synthetic textile fibers releases microparticles in waters. These microparticles are accumulated into food chains. Cotton is not any better a very demanding crop in terms of water consumption and the need for pesticides. As cotton fields are typically located in areas with high population density, sparse water resources tend to get strained and extensive irrigation programmes needed. Regenerated fibres based on cellulosic raw materials are serious alternatives to over-cultivating cotton. Although there are several ways to produce regenerated cellulosic textile fibres, the viscose technology route remains dominant due to its cost effectiveness, with over 90% of a global 6 Mtons total. China is by far the largest producer with close to 4 Mtons. Unfortunately viscose is not without its own environmental and health issues. The production process relies on carbon disulphide (CS2), which can be defined as a nerve agent and recognised health hazard. Making viscose production independent of CS2 would pave the way very significant growth in cellulosic textile fibre production and usage. What can be done? There are several ways to move forward with green initiatives and sustainable solutions. These are a few thoughts about what ought to be done within the textile industry: Firstly. Consumer awareness is an ever increasing trend. People are looking for sustainable solutions. Brand owners are aware of this and are searching for green, sustainable solutions for their products. Secondly. In order to reinforce the influencing effect of the above, regulators have to play their part. By creating incentives or even directives, development in the desired direction can be advanced. Biofuels are a good example – the entire market was effectively created by regulators. A similar route could work for textiles. The EU could set new standards for textiles by requiring biogradability or/and bio-components inside textiles and garments sold in Europe. Thirdly. Not surprisingly, considering the global need for sustainable natural textile fibres, many different technologies are under development. All reaching out to use cellulosic material for textiles.

Dr. Ing. R.J.A. (Richard) Gosselink, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research (NL) Zero Waste Ligno-Cellulosic Biorefineries by Integrated Lignin and Humins Valorisation (ZELCOR)

ZELCOR is a BBI-JU funded H2020 EU project (GA 720303) consisting of 17 partners from 8 countries which started in October 2016. ZELCOR’s overall goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of transforming recalcitrant by-products considered as waste, namely lignin- and humins-rich streams, into high added value materials, including functional biopolymers, lignin and furanic oligomers and phenolic monomers. Valorisation of these recalcitrant by-products will enable a ligocellulosic biorefinery to become a zero waste biorefinery and more economically feasible. A strategy combining chemical and enzymatic catalyses with microbial conversion has been under investigation to obtain a wide range of valuable products from lignin and humins, a side product in the conversion of carbohydrates into furanic building blocks. Targeted applications are high added-value endproducts in the field of coating materials, packaging bioplastics and cosmetics. Following a cascading process, lignin and humins-rich recalcitrant materials are sequentially fractionated, catalytically depolymerised by chemical and microbial processing, functionalised and refined. Streams generated at each stage are all valorised, thus fulfilling the ‘zero-waste’ goal. The targeted end-products and applications match the demand of the chemical and cosmetic industries for functional bio-based molecules with both biological activities and structuring properties. ZELCOR considers two pathways to set-up lignin and humins new value chains. Beyond the zero waste and economics gains targets, multicriteria analysis of main value chains is further developed including considerations of industrial and ecological risks. This presentation will explain the overall goals and ambition of this zero-waste lignocellulosic biorefinery concept and will present the first results obtained.