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Biorefining for Bio-based Chemicals

Biomass could provide the chemical industry with sustainable routes to the materials that are necessary to a modern and comfortable life. This promise requires the development of new conversion and separation technologies to be applied in future biorefineries.

In one workstream, we are investigating pre-treatment technologies to extract carbohydrates from lignocellulosic biomass in a way that makes them suitable for subsequent upgrading by means of hydrogenation or hydrogenolysis. 

With PT (production technologies), we explore the possibility of developing thermoset bio-materials from the heavy and tarry product of lignocellulose liquefaction.

In collaboration with CPM (Catalytic processes and materials), we are exploring the opportunity to upgrade bio-intermediates to chemical building blocks. For instance, we have explored the possibility to use acetic acid, a natural fermentation product of sugars, as acylation agent to convert benzene to phenyl-ethanol, which can then be dehydrated to styrene. We also explored the possibility to upgrade propylene glycol, a major co-product of sugar hydrogenolysis, to acrylic acid. The route proceeds via dehydration to allyl alcohol followed by oxidation to acrylic acid.

Together with MnF (Molecular nanofabrication), we are exploring novel chemistries to convert sugars to furanic intermediates that can subsequently be upgraded to chemical building blocks.

However, a catalysis transformation does not suffice to provide a promising biorefinery concept; separation technologies and conceptual process is also necessary. To this end, we are subjecting various projects to a conceptual process design and economic assessment. We are also developing concepts and guide lines to help the researchers identifying critical issues in the early stage of development.


  1. V.C. Pramod, R. Fauziah, K. Seshan, J.-P. Lange: Bio-based acrylic acid from sugar via propylene glycol and allyl alcohol, Catal. Sci. Technol. 2018, 8, 289 – 296
  2. J.-P. Lange: Don't forget product recovery in catalysis research - Check the Distillation Resistance, ChemSusChem 2017, 10, 245 – 252
  3. J.-P. Lange: Catalysis for biorefineries – performance criteria for industrial operation, Catalysis Science & Technology, 2016, 6, 4759 - 4767
  4. A.A. Kiss, J.-P. Lange, B. Schuur, D.W.F. Brilman, A.G.J. van der Ham, S.R.A. Kersten: Separation technology–Making a difference in biorefineries, Biomass and Bioenergy, 2016, 95, 296 - 309