Intelligent production of resources made from lignocellulose

FFG-Programm Intelligente Produktion, FFG-Projektnummer 834297
Ligno I (“Biorefinery”) - Using lignified biomass as raw material for production of new materials
Vision biobased industry
On the way to a biobased future, social change moves us closer to sustainability, and products from
biobased industry establish themselves in competition. Surface area productivity goes up, and existing resources are used in the best possible way as regards all dimensions of sustainability. System integration makes synergies accessible, innovations succeed by way of cross-linking and combined technologies that make flexibility with respect to material specification, raw material and process possible.
In this way biobased industry strengthens the national economy and enhances local value creation.

(RTI strategy for biobased industry in Austria, ÖGUT 2014 – in german)

The projects "LIGNOREFINERY I and II" are intended to develop strategies for the complete use of lignified biomass as raw material. This work is being conducted by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, denkstatt GmbH, O¨sterreichische Bundesforste, the TDZ Ennstal and technology partner Fermtech.
Scientists in the fields of chemistry, wood research and biotechnology are investigating cascading woody biomass as part of a broader strategy to develop new materials based on biomass. Possible materials under development include lactic acid for making bioplastics, humus-like fertilizer to improve soil quality, or high- grade nanocellulose fibres.
The focus is on utilizing the lignocellulose biomass in a modular way and on making various products that, in the past, could only be manufactured from petroleum. For instance, it is possible to make dimensionally stable aerogels based entirely on lignin. Aerogels are ultra-light, highly porous materials with a growing number of technical applications, such as:
• high-performance thermal and acoustic insulation
• substrate for catalysts and filter systems
• electrode material for electrochemical applications
Other chemical is itaconic acid, another precursor for polymers; until now it could be produced only under very specialized conditions. Itaconic acid resembles malic acid, which serves as a precursor for making acrylates and resins. Both itaconic acid itself and its derivatives can be employed as building blocks in chemical synthesis. For instance, itaconic acid can be decarboxylated and then esterified to make methyl methacrylate, which is then turned into plexiglass.

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