Separation techniques

Separation techniques allow us to retrieve valuable components from biomass streams, including high-value food ingredients, building blocks for biochemicals and biofuels. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has decades of experience with separation techniques specific to biomass and can experiment with a wide range of processes in our research centres.

Break down, dry and remove moisture

In many cases, crops are already separated into different parts for different applications at harvest time. During the next stage of processing, the plant parts are often further broken down into components. This is necessary as a given application often requires a certain degree of purity or fixed ratio of components. In addition to breakdown into components, drying and/or removal of moisture are also common separation techniques.

Various methods

Separation techniques are also often used to remove water as well as unwanted organic components from biomass. Mostly multiple separation steps are necessary for this. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research can apply a variety of separation methods in our research centres:

  • Ion exchange
  • Dry fractionation
  • Membrane separation
  • Adsorption
  • Chromatography
  • Centrifuge
  • Precipitation
  • Stripping
  • Scrubbing
  • Extraction
  • Filtration
  • Pressing
  • Evaporation/drying
  • Distillation

Choosing a method

The choice for a particular separation technique (or combinations thereof) is based upon the desired product quality, separation efficiency and financial options. The specific choice of a separation process has major influence on purity as well as other quality characteristics. For example, an elevated temperature or the presence of water or other processing aids can have a significant impact on biomolecules, which can result in the loss of functionality of proteins (such as foaming capacity) or the breakdown of molecules.

Insight into production costs

The costs of separation processes can amount to more than fifty per cent of the total production costs of a final product. Therefore, it is vital to understand the potential costs involved in developing new biobased products from the start of an initiative. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research can provide this insight and also make transparent the properties and application opportunities for waste/by-products streams from the separation process. Our goal is to establish a system with which we convert biomass into a range of valuable product streams at acceptable cost.