BioCatPolymers - Sustainable and efficient bio-chemical catalytic cascade conversion of residual biomass to high quality biopolymers


Spring 2020

Within the context of sustainability and the global efforts for CO2 emission reduction, the investigation of routes for biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals has received tremendous attention.

The production of bio-based building blocks and the associated production of bio-polymers could make a big impact in improving the sustainability of the chemical and petro-chemical industry. It also offers a promising opportunity to improve the overall economics and sustainability of the bio-based industry. EU has declared the bio-based products sector to be a priority area with high potential for future growth, reindustrialization, and addressing societal challenges.

BioCatPolymers is a 3-year European project funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 760802. The BioCatPolymers consortium comprises seven partners from five countries CERTH (Greece), BPF (Netherlands), PDC (Netherlands), Quantis (Switzerland), Covestro (Germany), Sekab (Sweden) and Visolis (Netherlands). The project is coordinated by CERTH, the Centre for Research & Technology Hellas (Greece).

The main objective of BioCatPolymers is to demonstrate a cost-effective, sustainable and effi cient cascade technological route for the conversion of low-value, low-quality residual biomass to bio-polymers with equal or better performance than their fossil-based counterparts. The project targets specifi cally the efficient and economic production of two monomers with very large markets, isoprene and 3 methyl pentanediol (3MPD).

The novel approach proposed in BioCatPolymers surpasses the impediments of traditional solely bio-based approaches. The BioCatPolymers process starts from the optimized pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass, combined with efficient enzymatic hydrolysis to sugars. Using innovative engineered strains, sugars are fermented with high yield to mevalonolactone (MVL). After separation and purification from the fermentation broth, MVL is converted, via highly efficient and selective thermochemical catalytic processes, to the monomers, which are fi nally purified to polymer grade quality. These monomers can be further processed for the production of synthetic rubber, polyurethanes and polyesters that can be used in a wide range of every day products, such as car tires, synthetic shoe material, life jackets and foams for insulation.

The project is currently entering its third year. The first two years have been very successful and the project partners have achieved to develop efficient strains, catalysts and processes for all steps in the BioCatPolymers value chain on small scale. Currently, the scaleup activities are on-going to demonstrate the integrated process on a 0.5 ton biomass/day scale. The main highlights of the work that has been performed so far are shown in the figure below.


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