The BioSPRINT concept is to successfully research the implementation and transposition of PI methods, which have proved highly promising or successful in other industries, to the purification and conversion of sugars from the hemicellulose (HMC) fraction of lignocellulosic biomass into furan monomers, and to the production of new biorenewable resins for several applications, including polymer applications from the obtained furans. The processing technologies stages are:
Upstream Purification of Hemicelluloses Streams
In BioSPRINT, the key PI strategy will be the development of hybrid membrane technologies as low-energy solutions to remove soluble non-sugar components and concurrently achieve higher concentration of hemicellulosic sugars. The membrane technologies can be combined with e.g. adsorption to ensure high purity of the target sugars. The aim is to increase the TRL level from 3 to 5.
Catalytic Conversion of Hemicellulose Sugars into Monomers
The project we will investigate, apply and integrate catalysis, kinetics and in situ separation methods of reactive intermediates into a single intensified process step to maximise sugar conversion, reduce generation of waste by-products, minimise hazardous solvent inventory and energy consumption, and improve process safety. Additionally, intensification via hybridisation of reaction and extraction techniques will be investigated to enable in situ removal of highly reactive target products avoiding further degradation in the reactor. Integration between catalyst and reactor design will be achieved using high throughput (HTP) and machine learning (ML) methods for catalyst development, leading to more selective processes using less harsh process conditions. This will lead to an efficient reactor design, reducing reactor and downstream separations footprints.
Downstream Purification of Furan Monomers
In downstream purification processes, BioSPRINT will focus on the recovery of product(s), solvent(s) and unreacted sugar feedstock. Additionally, it might be necessary to remove short chain acids, humins and other unwanted by-products, generated in parallel dehydration reactions, to guarantee maximum product quality downstream. Similarly, to the upstream purification units, emphasis will be directed towards integration and intensification of technologies capable of minimising net energy consumption and product degradation, greenhouse gas emissions and costs, associated with downstream separation processes.
At the final polymerisation stage, resole and novolac-type resins and Mannich polyols will be synthesized based on the purified bio-based monomers produced, when necessary in combinations with fossil reagents. Polymerisation intensification methods will be investigated to achieve continuous processes using spinning disc reactors (SDR), which would replace the current batch-based approaches.