Biorefinery and Sustainable Chemistry
The associated resource stress and price volatility, as well as climate changing and polluting effects of our linear fossil based economy, necessitates a transition towards a sustainable circular economy based on renewable biomass resources. However, biomass includes lignocellulose, lipids containing triglycerides from animal fats, vegetable origin and microalgae and turpentine streams. Of these, lignocellulosic biomass consists of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, represents the most abundant and low cost one. Nevertheless, the multi-functionalities of lignocellulosic biomass, e.g., -OH, -C=O, -COOH and -R-O-R-, due to the high oxygen content renders it highly reactive and not suitable for most of the classical standard catalysts which consequently suffer from rapid deactivation. Therefore, combining the development of novel functional-tolerant catalysts, e.g. nanoparticles on highly stable supports (ZrO2, CeO2 and carbon nitride), nanozymes and acid/base catalysts, with integrated flow process in green solvents for lignocellulosic valorization, is our specific key approach for obtaining a sustainable process. Thus, the relation between the catalyst and its design and integrated flow lignocellulosic biomass valorization process can be metaphorically explained as a “Tango Dance” where the dancing partners are always embraced to dance together, in spite of their different intentions and needs.
By utilizing our knowledge in heterogeneous catalyst and chemical engineering we work on the design of renewable, sustainable and economically efficient flow processes for lignocellulosic biomass upgrading towards bio-based building blocks.