21/11/2017

The cross-border project BIO-HArT (Biorizon Innovation and Upscaling of Renewable Aromatics Technology) was set out in 2016 to scale up technology for the production of bio-aromatics from biomass, focusing specifically on woody biomass sources. By the end of 2018 this must result in functioning bench-scale demonstrators and optimized processes, so kilogram samples can be provided to the industry. A consortium of 10 industrial and research organizations is collaborating on the realization of these ambitious targets. Today, the mid-term results of the project are communicated.

Several key milestones achieved by the project partners

BIO-HArT has established protocols for bio-refining several raw materials like Miscanthus, corn straw and, flaxstraw, into sugars and lignin. Protocols (reaction conditions, processes, etc.) have been established and optimized for the conversion of wood, lignin and sugar fractions into target aromatic compounds.
 
Along the complete value chain of biomass biorefinery, pilot installations have been established for the conversion and fractionation of obtained lignin and sugar fractions to aromatic compounds. Specifically the following installations have been set up:
  • Four pilot installations for bio-refining lignocellulosic materials into sugars and lignin;
  • A 2Liter installation for the direct catalytic conversion of wood to a mixture of alkylfenols (the so-called “Lignin-first” technology). This reactor will be used to further optimize the reaction on kilogram scale and for the delivery of samples for evaluation in applications;
  • Two continuous process installations which perform several of the key reactions in the Diels-Alder approach from sugar based starting materials (Furans) towards aromatic compounds. BIO-HArT is now able to meet requests from companies for samples on multi-kilogram scale;
  • A mobile nano-filtration solvent pilot unit for:
  • fractionation / purification of the alkylphenols mixture from the Lignin-first process and;
  • fractionation and separation of the  Crude Lignin Oil obtained from a catalytic depolymerization process of lignin in supercritical ethanol.
VITO has successfully developed and demonstrated the membrane-based separation of the high molecular weight lignin derivatives from the lignin oils issued from the depolymerisation processes of wood/lignin under consideration in the BIO-HArT project. The further fractionation of the obtained lignin fractions after a first separation step is currently being investigated.
 
Samples of several aromatic compounds / fractions have been produced on 100g – 1kg scale for evaluation of their quality in a range of applications like coatings, resins, adhesives, lubricants, polyesters, and polyurethane applications. 

Profitable and sustainable prospects for the chemical industry

Aromatics are one of the main raw materials used by the chemical industry: 40% of all chemicals are aromatic by nature. Aromatics are currently extracted from oil, which leads to the emission of CO2. The Biorizon Shared Research Center, initiated by TNO, VITO and Green Chemistry Campus, together with partners develops technologies to extract aromatics from plant residues. This reduces dependency on oil, leads to lower CO2-emissions, and provides profitable and sustainable prospects for the chemical industry and the supply industry.

Interreg

The BIO-HArT project has received a contribution of the European Interreg V Flanders-The Netherlands program that stimulates innovation, sustainable energy, a healthy environment and the labor market by means of cross-border projects. On a total budget of € 6.085.445,38 Interreg contributes € 3.042.722,69 (50 %) and besides that the provinces of North-Brabant, Antwerp, East-Flanders and Flemish-Brabant offered additional funding. Doing so they make an important contribution to the further development of the Flemish-Dutch border region as a top location for the transition to a more sustainable, biobased economy and an efficient use of natural resources.

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