Renewable chemicals & feedstocks

The transition from fossil-based to carbon-neutral and sustainable industries is a major challenge. Aromatic chemicals play an important role in commodity, fine and specialty chemicals, but their origin is still almost exclusively petrochemical. While lignocellulosic biomass offers an important source of bio aromatics with a huge potential, its conversion to useful chemicals is still largely unaddressed. Therefore lignin/wood are the major studied feedstocks, though others such as sugars, peptides/amino acids and fatty acids are also being investigated. The concept of bio refineries is under extensive development, but there is still a serious gap between the bio based building blocks delivered by the biorefineries and specific end products featuring suitable properties for concrete applications in industry. New sustainable synthetic methods and routes are needed which will transform these interesting bio based building blocks into new product families. This valorisation program focuses on (de)functionalization of molecules, which could be produced by bio refineries. This is complemented with intermediates or product molecules extracted from biomass waste streams. To obtain the target molecules, a versatile toolbox of synthetic methods is used, featuring both catalytic and non-catalytic methods, for example homogeneous catalysis, photocatalysis, electrocatalysis, and heterogeneous catalysis which lay in the core competence of the different (co)-promotors. In this respect, the electrochemical conversion of waste biomass like glucose is being studied by the consortium, targeting a sustainable production of gluconic and glucaric acid, the latter being considered as one of the top value added chemicals that can be obtained from biomass.