A-Z Knowledge on Wood-derived Chemicals

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Wood Cellulose

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Lignin from Wood

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Sugars from Wood

R&D Projects for the Valorization of Extractives from Wood

Wood Chemistry Reinventing Polymers for a Greener Future

Biopolymers Derived from Wood Extractives

Bio-based Polymers Derived from Wood-based Lignin

Bio-based Polymers from Wood Sugars

Bio-based Polymers from Wood Sugars

The major component of wood biomass is cellulose. Since about half of the organic carbon in the biosphere is present in the form of cellulose, the conversion of cellulose into valuable chemicals has a paramount importance. The depolymerization of cellulose results in the formation of glucose.

Hemicellulose is the second most abundant polymer. Unlike cellulose, hemicellulose has a random and amorphous structure, which is composed of several heteropolymers including:

  • Xylan
  • Galactomannan
  • Glucuronoxylan
  • Arabinoxylan
  • Glucomannan, and
  • Xyloglucan

Wood Sugars - Extraction and Value

Hemicellulose Extraction from Wood Chips Hardwood hemicelluloses contain mostly xylans, whereas softwood hemicelluloses contain mostly glucomannan. The depolymerization of hemicellulose results in the formation of glucose as well as the other C5 sugars (xylose, arabinose) and C6 sugars (mannose, galactose, rhamnose).

There are different techniques to extract wood sugars using a variety of wood fractionation technologies such as:

  • Dilute acid
  • The steam explosion followed by enzymatic hydrolysis
  • Supercritical fluid
  • Concentrated acid, and
  • Organosolv processes

Once isolated, cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin can be converted and/or incorporated into a wide range of materials.

The polysaccharides are deconstructed into monomeric hexose C6 and pentose C5 sugars which are then converted into a wide range of value-added building-block chemicals and bio-based polymers:

  • C5 and C6 sugar derived building-block chemicals include 1,4-diacids (succinic acid, fumaric acid, malic acid), 2,5-furan dicarboxylic acid (2,5-FDCA), 3-hydroxy propionic acid (3-HPA), aspartic acid, glucaric acid, glutamic acid, itaconic acid, levulinic acid, 3-hydroxybutyrolactone (3-HBL), glycerol, sorbitol and xylitol/arabinitol.

  • Examples of important commercial polymers derived from the 1,4-diacid platform are PBS and its copolymers, PBT resins and yarns, PTMEG, P4HB, Polyamides PA-4,6, PA-4,10. Polymers derived from the 2,5-furan dicarboxylic acid platform (2,5-FDCA) can be the 100% bio-based polyethylene-furanoate polymer (PEF) used in bottles, fibers, and films applications.

    Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are bio-polyesters which can be produced by levulinic acid. Polylactic acid (PLA) is derived from lactic acid (LA) which is mainly produced via the fermentation of glucose and sucrose by lactic acid bacteria. PLA is mostly used in food, beverage, and pharmaceutical and personal care applications.

Therefore, there is a strong potential for the valorization of sugars streams from wood. Indeed, wood biomass presents a growing interest because it does not compete with food or feed production. It can increase sustainability by providing a new source of industrial sugars which are important building blocks for various basic chemicals and intermediates. Wood sugars could, therefore, be a future alternative to sugars currently generated by agro-refineries for the manufacture of biopolymers.

However, the techno-economic viability of efficient and sustainable processes for fractionation of wood into sugars and lignin and to further conversion of both fractions into high added value products still need to be demonstrated. New wood-based value chains need to be achieved for the production of chemical building blocks, materials and biofuels (other than ethanol) in a cascading approach, by a combination of biotechnology and chemical processes.

Bio-based Polymers from Wood Cellulose

Barriers to the Development of Wood Biomass-derived Bio-products

Feedstock Related Barriers

Technology Related Barriers

Market Related Barriers

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