From carbohydrates to new, valuable products

From carbohydrates to new, valuable products

Is it possible to create more value for my carbohydrate-rich biomass stream(s)? Can I reduce the environmental footprint of my products by using other, milder, processing and derivatisation techniques? These and other questions are ‘top of mind’ for many carbohydrate-processing companies, especially since sugar quota have been lifted in the EU and processing of sugars for food is under severe strain. At Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, we tackle these questions and contribute to building new, cost-competitive value chains.

In our R&D facilities, we open up the potential of your biomass stream. Whether you are looking for added value for biomass streams from agricultural crops or forestry– such as sugar beets, corn, potatoes, wheat –  or aquatic biomass – such as algae and seaweed. Through dedicated research, applied technologies and development of new, innovative processes, we can work towards new, bio-based products or even novel food-ingredients.

From complex biomass streams to defined components

Using our biorefinery toolbox, with technologies like column chromatography, crystallisation or membrane technology, we can process complex biomass (side)streams into components with a high purity. Our expertise on mechanical, thermal and (bio)chemical pretreatment enables us to separate and isolate main biomass components from (agricultural) crops. Components such as starch, cellulose, hemicellulose and/or proteins or lignin.

An example of carbohydrate isolation is our project on pentose extraction from different biomass sources: bran, bagasse and sugarbeet pulp. We aim to convert these pentoses to furandicarboxylic acid for our client, to make the bioplastic PEF (Poly Ethylene Furandicarboxylate), an alternative for PET. 

From polysaccharides to new applications

With specific chemical and biotechnological conversion methods we turn carbohydrates into a broad range of products. These products can vary from fibres and specific polysaccharides such as esters and ethers to small organic building blocks (chemicals) for the production of thermoplastic or thermosetting polymers.  State of the art facilities, such as our chemical and fermentation labs and our expertise on chemo-catalysis as well as microbial strain improvement, enable our experts to develop the most suitable and profitable chemical, microbial and/or enzymatic conversion methods.

Examples of polysaccharide products and methods that we work on comprise modified starches, including dietary fibres to be used as functional ingredient in food formulations, cellulosic fibres for composite materials and starch particles that are applied as paper coatings. An example of a route that we successfully developed is the chemical conversion of C5 and C6-sugars from sugarbeet pulp or bagasse into FDCA. In addition,  we develop processes for production of isohexides, itaconic acid and methacrylic acid and bio-based aromatics. Our biotechnologists developed strains enabling sugar fermentation to lactic acid and medium chain fatty acids.

Finding markets for biomass components

We help companies develop bio-based plastics, coatings, paints, resins, adhesives, polymer additives and other bio-based chemicals derived from carbohydrates. This work enables us to help determine which application can be of interest to carbohydrate-rich biomass - and vice versa. In this way, we can connect possible partners and develop new, cost-competitive value chains.