The fractionation process developed in the FRACTION project can be deployed for separating lignocellulosic biomasses into three streams: cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin. The benefit of the FRACTION technology is the improved process efficiency and the higher and consistent quality of the three streams. Table 1 shows how the three streams could be processed into bio-based chemicals that are in demand by companies. Research carried out by IFAU (FRACTION partner specialised in business development) has shown that companies in the bio-based industries are increasingly interested in using bio-based chemicals, either as drop-in solutions or as substitutions for fossil-based chemicals. For example, lignin would be of interest to producers of phenolic resins and, this chemical would be sold on to, e.g., producers of bio-based foams, coatings or composites. Furan can be used in a process to manufacture 5-HMF, which is a chemical that is used to make biopolymers for, e.g., bio-based plastic, textiles or films (packaging material).
|Biomass with lignocellulose||Platform chemical / bio-based building block||FRACTION end-product||Potential industrial application|
|Cellulose||Cellulose||High-value celluloses, nanocellulose, micro-fibrillated cellulose, cellulosic fibers||Smart packaging materials
|Hemicellulose||Ketoses||5-HMF||PEF (for bio-based plastic)|
|Furfural to succinic acid||Polyurethanes||Coatings and adhesives,
|Furfural||1,5 Pentanediol||Polyesters (for fibers, materials)|
|Lignin||Lignin||Vanillin||Flavor and fragrance|
|Lignin||Polyurethanes||Coatings and adhesives|
|Lignin||Phenolic resins||Insulation foams
Table 1: Fractionation of lignocellulosic biomasses into bio-based chemicals, and their applications by industry
It is an important quality requirement for bio-based chemicals that, the final product (e.g., coatings or biopolymers) has the same performance and functionality as if it was produced with non-bio-based components. This is clear from interviews with producers of bio-based components, from literature and stakeholder consultations at roundtables (Read more about FRACTION roundtables).
Quality requirements to bio-based chemicals could be presented as technical specifications such as:
- Low degree of variability / high degree of consistency;
- Constant quality of the bio-based chemical;
- Hydroxy-value of the bio-based component;
- Purity (share of impurities, e.g., metals or non-intended bio-based fractions);
- Colour and smell of the bio-based chemical.
Technical specifications also have an impact on the quality of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin that are used in processes to make biobased chemicals. Specifications for the quality of biomass could be such as:
- For hemicellulose and furfural: less impurities;
- For lignin: molar mass, functionality and purity.
Quality requirements for bio-based products are specified as a range of technical performance parameters including processability and purity. The most important parameter is functionality: The biobased chemical must provide the end-product with similar or better functionality than would be achieved, if the end-product was made without bio-based chemicals. This makes the FRACTION process highly relevant to companies as the process leads to higher quality (improved purity and consistent quality) of the cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin streams, thus enabling the use of these streams in high-value applications.