TNO works for and with businesses on the flexibility in use of raw materials. This is necessary to produce more sustainably and be less dependent on resources such as fossil building blocks. A broader range of more locally available alternative raw materials and new processes for making these raw materials usable make businesses less vulnerable to fluctuations in demand and supply. This strengthens their position on the market and means greater security of supply. Sustainability, economic feasibility, safety, cost-effectiveness, and scalability are key concepts here.
TNO bridges sectors that are as yet not sufficiently familiar with one another but which may in the near future mean a lot for one another, and together for society: the chemical industry and suppliers of renewable raw materials, such as biomass. Biomass suppliers such as the agro-food sector are looking for ways of extracting value from residual waste. But the needs of the chemical industry are often insufficiently known, and conversely the chemical sector is not always aware of the value of such waste and the necessary procedures to make it suitable for their own processes. Because TNO knows both parties well, we can speed up chemical innovation together with them.
Aromatics from biomass
At the Biorizon Open Innovation Programme at the Green Chemistry Campus in Bergen op Zoom, in collaboration with the Belgian organization VITO and a growing number of companies, we are working on technologies to make aromatic building blocks from biomass. Aromatics are an important raw material for the chemical industry with in future rising prices. We are, for example, engaged on a project to extract building blocks from household waste that can then be turned into aromatics. Together with waste businesses, a proof of concept has been developed that we are developing further. In another project, we have built a test set-up that produces furans from sugars. In ten years, this will enable our industrial partners to run a new, profitable continuous process.
We do all this as part of open innovation. Businesses and scientists pool their strengths and knowledge in joint facilities to develop new technologies more quickly in an efficient and cost-effective way. Biorizon will be a world leader in research on biobased aromatics. New partners are always welcome to collaborate on further scaling-up of technology.
Valuable ingredients from algae
Another example is the VALORIE mobile pilot plant for algal biorefining that TNO has developed with a number of companies. TNO was the first in the world to manage to develop a modular technology enabling the cell wall of algae to be opened efficiently in order to extract valuable functional ingredients on a kilogram scale. Algae are the plant of the future because they can grow on infertile soil with the aid of CO2 and sunlight. The ingredients extracted can be used in food, animal feed, and chemical and pharmaceutical products. The pilot plant is ultimately set to lead to commercial production. Here, too, new partners are welcome to take part in further increases in scale.
Other examples of projects are the use of superheated steam (SHS) technology developed by us as a way of opening up lignocellulose-containing biomass for further processing, such as waste from the agricultural sector, waste streams, and woody biomass. For the longer term the use of CO2 as raw material for the chemical industry is an important factor in achieving sustainability and a circular economy. At a European level, we are involved in two large projects with researching long-term solutions for making sustainable raw materials from CO2 for new applications in the chemical industry; as well as researching which products are relevant in the short term.
Combine superheated steam with enzyme technology and you can convert grass, straw, plant stems and manure fibre into sugars. Those sugars can be used in all sorts of ways, from animal feed and biogas...
TNO and Leiden University awarded European enzyme production project
25 March 2015
How can we build a better production system for bacterial enzymes – streptomycetes to be precise? And how can we produce bacterial enzymes in a system that already works fine, namely fungi? Thanks to...
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