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Wood residues: Diverse applications across many sectors

Wood residues offer enormous opportunity to add value and contribute to the biobased economy. The main components in wood, lignin and cellulose form the raw materials for a diverse array of chemicals and fuels with a multitude of applications (e.g. packaging; personal care products; biofuels; fine, speciality & bulk chemicals).   


Lignin is an abundant raw material contributing 30% of the weight of lignocellulosic biomass. The main industrial application is for lignosulfonates where it used mainly as dispersants, binders and adhesives for the construction, mining, animal feed and agricultural sectors. An array of chemicals can be isolated from lignin but vanillin is the main chemical produced on a commercial scale.

The Norwegian company Borregaard have developed lignin and lignosulfonate technology to generate products with an array of functionalities: Binding agents, crystal growth modifiers, dispersing agents, dust suppressants, emulsion stabilisers, extrusion aids, retarders and rheology modifiers.  

UK based Biome Bioplastics were recently awarded funding to work with Warwick University on research into lignin degrading bacteria for optimal chemical production for the generation of bioplastics. Currently the price of bioplastic resin is 2-4 times greater than the petrochemical equivalent but if research can increase the availability of a high performing polymer manufactured economically from renewable sources, this would increase the market and bring down prices.  


Cellulose can be hydrolysed to glucose which can then serve as a feedstock for fermentation processes to produce a variety of chemical building blocks (e.g. succinic acid, glutamic acid, aspartic acid) and fine chemicals (e.g. xanthan, antibiotics, amino acids).

The Norwegian company PFI are actively researching applications for cellulose nanofibrils. They are currently developing nanopaper with high barrier properties, comparable and superior to conventional oil-based plastics. Cellulose nanfibrils are intrinsically strong and can self-assemble making them amenable to the manufacture of strong and dense nanobarriers and nanocomposites.

Sources: Biome Bioplastics Press Release Bio-based chemicals. Value added products from biorefineries. IEA Bioenergy – Task 42 Biorefinery.


You can find out more about this area and speak to representatives from Borregaard, PFI and Biome Bioplastics at an upcoming event in Rothamsted on 25th and 26th June.

The event, UK-Norway: valorising woody biomass is an opportunity for you to find the funding and collaborative partners you need to develop your business or R&D capabilities in the area of wood-derived chemicals and fuels.

You can find out more about this event and register here

5 minute pitching slots are available; submit your 300 word abstract online

Any questions about the event please contact Michelle Carter



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