There is great demand in the market for bio-aromatics, especially as a substitute for the aromatics currently produced from fossil raw materials. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research looks to natural feedstocks to make bio-aromatics for numerous high-quality applications. Lignin, and sugars derived from cellulose and hemicellulose are the most important renewable starting raw materials.
Added value from bio-aromatics
More than 150 million tonnes of chemicals worldwide are based on aromatic building blocks. The development of bio-aromatics is predicated on the need to mitigate climate change and the looming shortage of fossil raw materials. Biobased waste and side streams from the paper industry, agriculture, landscape maintenance and other biorefinery chains can serve as an alternative to fossil sources. Thanks to their additional functional properties, biobased aromatics from sources such as carbohydrate-rich or lignin-containing side streams can also offer added value compared with aromatics from fossil sources.
Leading in research
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has decades of experience with the valorisation of biobased sidestreams as the basis for bio-aromatics. For example, we are a leading institute in research into lignin as a phenol-like building block for biobased resins and adhesives, and as a building block for polymers in polyesters, foams, coatings, and lacquers. We also work on applications for cellulose and lignin as a binder in materials such as asphalt. Additionally we help companies with the conversion of sugars from carbohydrate-rich waste streams into biobased multifunctional aromatics like di and tri-acids. Moreover, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has identified unique biotechnological approaches towards bio-aromatics.
Examples of research
We have an extensive track record in research into the production of bio-aromatics:
- We are working on using lignin as a natural binder in asphalt in a range of projects. We expect that fossil bitumen binders can be completely replaced in the long term.
- In the EU project ZELCOR, we are investigating the use of lignin as a basis for active ingredients in functional packaging, cosmetics and building materials.
- In the Waste to Aromatics project, we are working on the conversion of sugars from waste streams such as municipal waste and sewage water into furfural. Furfural serves as a building block for the production of aromatic di and tri-acids.
- In the FIAD project, we are developing so-called tandem Diels-Alder aromatisation technology to convert furfural into aromatic di and tri-acids like methylphthalic and hemimellitic acid. These products are being evaluated in applications such as coatings and polyurethanes.