Research team

Intelligence in PRocesses, Advanced Catalysts and Solvents (iPRACS)

Expertise

Powdertechnology. This expertise comprises as well milling (mechanical and jet miling), sieving (mechanical, air assisted and cycloe), classification, particle size measurements (laser diffraction, auto correlation spectroscopy) as powder flow design and optimisation. Expertise about free flow, aggglomeration, desagglomeration, additives. Theoretical analysis of powder behaviour (tap density, bulk density, intrinsic density, flow, cohesion, adhesion, porosity, ..) Van der Waals theory. Effect op relative humidity and temperature.

P2PC: Plasics to Precious Chemicals. 01/05/2019 - 30/07/2022

Abstract

The P2PC project aspires to cope with the urgent issue of plastics waste management. The project targets the challenge of increasing plastic waste volumes and diversity on the one hand, as well as the establishment of circular material schemes instead of value destruction. The most important premise of P2PC is that by pyrolysis, plastic waste that is currently being burned or landfilled can be a source of diverse chemical building blocks, the so-called "precious chemicals". Its target, in other words, is to turn plastic waste into value. This way, P2PC can be considered as the next step in Flanders' efforts to lead the global effort in tackling the challenge of waste plastics.

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Project website

Investigation of the effect of metal ions and mediators on the delignification selectivity during pretreatment of poplar wood by Phanerochaete chrysosporium. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Microbial pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass is performed to delignify the substrate for further use of the carbohydrates present. Typical applications of the pretreated substrate include its conversion to chemicals by subsequent hydrolysis and fermentation, or biopulping for use in the paper industry. In contrast to the traditional technologies at high temperature and high usage of solvents, microbial pretreatment is an environmentally friendly technology. The mold Phanerochaete chrysosporium is a good candidate for lignin degradation because of its fast growth and high optimal growth temperature. For delignification purposes, the mold excretes extracellular peroxidases, i.e. manganese peroxidase and lignin peroxidase, that catalyse the oxidation and depolymerisation of lignin. However, the major disadvantage is the non-selective degradation of the lignin over the present carbohydrates. Supplements, such as metal ions and aromatic compounds, can have an activating or inhibiting action on the delignification or hydrolysis process. Moreover, recent research showed that some metal ions and aromatic compounds can act as intermediates in the oxidation of non-phenolic compounds, such as carbohydrates. Delignification of lignocellulose and hydrolysis as well as oxidation of carbohydrates will determine the efficiency of the pretreatment, dependent on the desired application. Therefore, in this research, the influence of supplements on the different possible actors in the process, i.e. substrate, microorganism and enzymes, will be investigated. Better insights in the pretreatment will help to determine which combination and concentration of supplements will improve the application potential of the pretreated wood. Additionally, a improved method for easy determination of the growth rate and delignification rate based on FTIR will be developed. Finally, a mathematical model to describe the evolution of delignification process will be proposed.

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SILEXOIL (Silica adsorption combined with fluid Extraction for oxyigenate/nitrogenate removal from polyolefine based pyrolysis oil). 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Based on the recently developed "physico chemical separation methods", a process will be developed that allows to reduce the level of oxygenates and nitrogenates in pyrolysis oil and increasing it valorization potential. The process can be a substitute for hydrotreatment.

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  • Intelligence in PRocesses, Advanced Catalysts and Solvents (iPRACS)

Combined process of Steam Explosion and Microbial detoxification for improved PREtreatment of lignocellulose biomass (SEMPRE). 01/07/2019 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

During the thermochemical pretreatment biotechnological production of chemicals from the polysaccharides in lignocellulose, a solid fraction is obtained, consisting mainly of cellulose, and a lignin waste stream, the so-called, xylose rich fraction (XRF). XRF contains some residual sugar, toxic lignin-derived phenolic and sugar-derived furans. The goal of the research project is to investigate a technique to obtain almost complete removal of the lignin waste stream by using lipid producing bacteria, i.e., Rhodococcus sp. Rhodococcus is known to be able to metabolise phenol compounds. However to succeed, some hurdles have to be taken. (i) The furans and some phenolics can be toxic to the microorganism, (ii) repolymerisation of the lignin can occur (iii) the lignin is probably not completely converted, (iv) oligomers of lignin and lignin cellulose complexes can still be present, (v) it is not known if the Rhodococcus can degrade these oligomers. By analysis of the sugars, furans, phenolics, and the nature of the oligomers or particles, insight can be gained. Based on this knowledge, a toolbox of techniques to solve this will be applied, i.e. adaptation of the microorganism, commercial cellulases and laccases, alfa-naphtol to prevent repolymerisation of the lignin, using other bacteria, ….

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Innovative (pre)pomace valorization process (IMPROVE). 01/03/2018 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

The ImPrOVE (Innovative (pre)POmace Valorization procEss) project addresses a major European wide agro-related problem: pomace resulting from pressing fruit. This high amount of pomace is considered waste, but contains natural and highly functional compounds. Skin and core of fruit contain protecting and functional molecules: antioxidants, stabilizers, colorants, aromas, fibers with potential in high value applications in cosmetics, diets and, as bio-additives in food and beverages. ImPrOVE aims to fully valorize pomace by using a combination of existing and innovative processes. These should be easy without high energy/cost demands, resulting in access for S(M)E's (economic strategic European targets) with profit redistributed over the whole chain, strengthening Europe's agro and food activities. ImPrOVE will design a generic process flow applicable to most pomace types. Two cases will be studied: Southern European olive pomace and Mid/Northern European apple/pear/cherry/cucumber pomace. Total valorization is achieved in three process clusters: (1) pretreatment of the pomace giving raise to aromas and oil from separated seeds; (2) extraction of high value materials from the pretreated pomace and (3) valorization of the resulting fibrous mass, either directly (functionally designed fibers) or by splitting cellulose-lignin and valorizing both materials physically, enzymatically and/or chemically. An ambitious concept is to use bio-based ionic liquids (BIOILs) or natural deep eutectic solvents (NADES) as extraction liquids advanced green solvents. More ambitious, highly appealing, is to study whether the extraction solution itself can be utilized instead of the isolated and purified ingredients, avoiding some downstream processing. Dermatological and metabolomic tests, (eco)toxicity, biodegradation, LCA, industrial relevance, scalability and economic viability will be sustainably addressed by the European multidisciplinary partner cluster, with academic and industrial members.

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Bio-LCCMs - long chain condensation monomers. 01/02/2018 - 15/08/2019

Abstract

The proposed research aims at developing (new) affordable, valuable long chain α,ω bifunctional monomers for condensation reactions, sustainably produced, and provide demonstration samples, in view of filing a patent application with parallel industrial valorization. The envisioned monomers will yield new materials, polymers in particular, with unprecedented physicochemical, thermal and mechanical properties compared to existing short (max. C10 chains) α,ω bifunctional condensation monomers. Moreover, the newly developed materials are expected to be biodegradable, and offer opportunities for chemical recycling. To date, monomers comparable to our envisioned monomers can only be produced at low carbon efficiencies and high economic and environmental cost. In contrast, we propose a new synthesis route, complying to green chemistry principles, yielding long (C18+) α,ω bifunctional monomers, as well as their asymmetric versions, and a synthesis route for chain length extension and even doubling. The latter two processes were thus far (industrially) neither known nor feasible. Monomers with such long or doubled chain length were unprecedented to date. The feasibility of our proposed synthesis route has already been demonstrated by preliminary experiments. The performance of such new C18 polyester structures will be benchmarked against that of traditional (short chain) alternatives. A second phase focuses on longer (C18+) chains. In the latter case an ether molecule from two fatty chains, terminated on both sides, will be obtained. The total length of the chain between two functional groups is intended to be long, meaning at least 18 atoms. We hypothesize that the presence of the ether-oxygen internally does not fundamentally alter the chain structure, resulting in similar properties as an equivalent homogeneous carbon chain. The properties of the associated newly obtained oligomers and polymers will be assessed, and the data obtained will serve as examples for a patent application. In a third phase the production process will be optimized (e.g. with respect to cost structure) for a selection of monomers, i.e. those with the highest industrial demand. These monomers will be produced and supplied in larger quantities as demonstration samples, in light of prompting industrial valorization. First cost estimates will be made.

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Application of agro-industrial side-streams for the investigation of triggering effects on very-long-chain fatty acid production by Rhodococcus strains and process optimization. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

Very-long-chain fatty acids (VLCFAs) are fatty acids with a chain length of more than 20 carbons. They represent a valuable class of chemicals which can be used in several industries. Nowadays, these are produced from vegetable oils and petrochemical feedstock. In order to make the VLCFA production more sustainable, microbial VLCFA synthesis by Rhodococcus species seems to be a perfect tool. Unfortunately, current knowledge on VLCFA production with Rhodococcus is limited. Therefore, this project proposes to fill this gap. For investigation of the triggering effects to achieve high VLCFA production different agro-industrial substrates will be used as raw material. The triggering effect of the compounds on gene expression of the VLCFA pathway will be evaluated by RT-qPCR. The desired triggers should increase the VLCFA titer. Different Rhodococcus strains will be examined and evaluated for VLCFA synthesis. VLCFA production will be further optimized by screening of several medium compositions, optimization of environmental factors and, finally, the feeding pattern. Establishment of high VLCFA productivities can lead to a new production process of valuable building blocks for chemical industry.

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Active Filtering Technology for Algae harvesting (ACTIFALG). 01/02/2016 - 31/01/2017

Abstract

A functional prototype of an algae harvester will be built and tested in real life conditions. The first target is to optimize the actual concept (dimensions, layout, choice of materials and physical parameters). The second target is to study in detail the operational window and the global costs (hardware and operational cost) and compare them with actual algae harvesters.

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SusChemA. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

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Partial placement of the NMR infrastructure for the structural elucidation of synthetic and natural substances. 19/05/2014 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Hercules Foundation. UA provides the Hercules Foundation research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Process for the re-use of growth medium in the culture of marine microalgae. 01/10/2013 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Plasma intensifaction in DBD plasma devices by the use of a packed bed of ceramic particles with specific dielectric properties, obtained by a core-shell design and by specific tuning of the particle size distribution (i-PLASMA). 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

Study of the use of core-shell and particle size distribution designed dielectric ceramic particles as packed bed material in the intensification of plasma based chemical processes. Experience in the field of industrial plasma generation will be combined with the modelling expertise of PLASMANT, in order to check on the valorisation potential of plasma induced chemistry. A dedicated experimental/empirical dataset will be set up and a related CIT process analysis. Valorisation is situated in emission control and synthesis of alternative raw material starting from waste streams.

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Computer modeling for the destruction of volatile organic compounds by means of (catalytic packed bed) DBD plasma reactors. 01/04/2011 - 31/03/2015

Abstract

In this project we wish to obtain a better insight in the destruction of volatile organic compounds (VOC's) in (catalytic packed bed) plasma reactors. By means of computer simulations and experimental validation, we will try to understand and optimize the different steps in the entire project with respect to the influence of the general reactor design, as well as a packing and a catalyst.

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Ion mobility high resolution mass spectrometer: a strong tool for fragile structures. 22/07/2010 - 21/07/2015

Abstract

This project has two general objectives: (1) Increase the research potential of the UA by introduction of new state of the art techniques for the analysis of fragile molecular structures by using the novel ion mobility capabilities that have recently been integrated with high-mass high-resolution Q-TOF mass spetrometry ("Synapt", waters). (2) Maintain the current capacity to obtain Q-TOF data by replacing an existing system.

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    Microwave-assisted chemical valorisation of biomass and bio-raw materials. 01/09/2009 - 31/08/2013

    Abstract

    First, the microwave-assisted synthesis (with or without heterogeneous catalyst) of renewable chemicals starting from plant oil and animal fat (triglycerides) or derivatives of triglycerides (free fatty acids) will be studied. Secondly, the design and the construction of a continuous microwave reactor will take place.

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    SusChemA. 01/04/2009 - 31/12/2014

    Abstract

    This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

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    Research team(s)

    Microwave assisted synthesis of renewable raw materials from triglycerides. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2010

    Abstract

    Study of the microwave assisted synthesis of renewable raw materials from triglycerides with specific attention for new catalysts and catalyst-free processes. These processes reduce the amount of waste products and they could also be the start of the development of compact industrial production processes (flow-through microwave reactors).

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    Analysis of binding media in paintings by means of a combination of spectroscopic and chromatographic methods. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2009

    Abstract

    As binding media in of artist paints, usually mixtures of natural products such as different proteins, vegetable oils, sugars and/or resins have been employed in the last 500 years. The project aims to develop procedures for the type-identification and quantitative analysis of the binding media employed in oil paintings by means of a combination of spectroscopic and chromatographic techniques, while causing minimal damage to the paintings involved.

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