Model of a molecule

Biobased chemicals

Chemicals are used in numerous applications ranging from materials to pharmaceuticals, and are still often made from fossil fuels. Biobased chemicals are made using renewable biomass components. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has many years of experience in research into biobased chemicals. We develop conversion methods and possible applications for biobased chemicals in collaboration with Dutch and international customers.

Biobased chemicals offer a sustainable alternative to chemicals based on fossil feed stocks. Developed from biomass, these chemicals can be structurally identical to existing chemicals (‘drop-in’ chemicals) or have new structures that offer new opportunities.

Opportunities for biobased chemicals

Biobased chemicals are developed from various biomass components, such as carbohydrates, fats and oils, lignin and proteins. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research carries out research into these biomass components. Preparation techniques and separation technologies have been developed to isolate the desired components from biomass. We also work on conversion techniques to deploy these components in biobased chemicals. Biobased chemicals are used in products such as bioplastics, adhesives and coatings, as well as specialty or fine chemicals and pharmaceutical intermediates.

Examples of biobased chemicals that we develop include:

  • Alcohols and acids (including biotechnological production of lactic acid, butanol and isopropanol)
  • Biohydrogen
  • Diols and diacids (chemo and biocatalytic production of, inter alia, furandicarboxylic acid and isosorbide/isoidide, and derivatives thereof)
  • Monomers for radical polymerisation (in particular, acrylic acid, itaconic acid and methacrylic acid)
  • Bioaromatics based on lignin, carbohydrates and amino acids
  • Fatty acid derivatives from various sources (including microalgae)
  • Fine chemicals such as peptides and glucosamine glycans

Our expertise

Interest in biobased chemicals is increasing rapidly. Companies in the agro-food and chemical sectors are showing a growing interest in the development of sustainable biobased chemicals and materials. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research works with international companies and SMEs in bilateral projects. We also cooperate with other research institutes and industries in various research programmes (such as BE-BASIC, CATCHBIO and the BPM programme). Wageningen Food & Biobased Research supports international customers with knowledge and advice on routes to synthesis and applications for biobased chemicals. The latest equipment, such as fermenters and high pressure reactors, is available in our laboratories. This allows us to develop new chemical and biochemical processes specifically for biomass which are realistic from an industrial point of view, and to provide advice on industrial production.