Within the field of organic chemistry, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is focused on the development of new synthesis routes for the production of biobased chemicals. We work on both the development of bulk chemicals and specialty chemicals such as (polymer) additives.
Routes to new chemicals
Biobased chemicals are developed based on biomass, a renewable raw material. Biomass does not have the same characteristics as the fossil raw materials currently used to make many chemicals. Processing therefore requires different types of expertise and techniques. Within organic chemistry, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research uses both chemical catalysts and biocatalysts to develop efficient new routes to existing and new chemicals. We use various reactions and techniques to realise these routes, such as:
- Esterification and etherification
- Aldol condensation
- Diels-Alder addition and Michael addition
- Oxidation and reduction
- Dehydration, decarbonylation and decarboxylation
Efficient and pure compounds
In addition to developing efficient synthesis methods, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research performs research into how compounds, such as, for instance, lactic acid, butanol, furandicarboxylic acid or phenols from lignin, can be isolated in the most efficient way and how they can be produced as pure as possible (purity >99.5%). We use techniques such as distillation, column separation and crystallisation to realise purity. A high level of purity is essential in the use of both specialty chemicals and bulk chemicals for the production of polymers. These biobased polymers are developed via polycondensation chemistry or radical polymerisation.
Biobased chemicals and materials
To develop biobased synthesis routes for technical and chemical applications, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research increasingly performs research into biomass that is not competing with current food consumption. Examples of renewable raw materials we are studying include sugars from sugar beet pulp, starch, wheat straw, bagasse or seaweeds; fats and oils from plants and algae; protein from side streams and lignin from various sources.
Based on our expertise in the field of organic chemistry, we prepare bulk-and specialty chemicals that are used in the further production of biobased chemicals and materials. Examples of these products are (bio)plastics, paints and adhesives, and (polymer) additives such as plasticisers, pigments, antioxidants, and flavors and fragrances.ss.
Together with international clients in consortia or bilateral collaborations, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is further developing organic chemistry related to biomass. Examples include partnerships within the Carbohydrate Competence Centre, the Biobased Performance Materials programme and the Dutch Polymer Institute.