Robust. Simple. Flexible.
As the world increasingly moves away from petrochemicals, our altogether new technology demonstrates how a renewable raw material can be used to manufacture the products and materials of the future. Goldilocks™, our green gold, originates in woody bio-mass or plant-based lignin. We mix it with a solvent, heat it, and out comes our green gold. This platform product can then be used for different applications – to make materials, various chemicals, and fuel (additives). We’re well on our way to producing a platform product with huge market potential, that is able to answer to the urgent need to transform our fossil-based economy to a more sustainable one.
Let’s be the change.
Lignocellulosic biomass is the most economical, abundant and highly renewable natural resource in the world. It has the potential to become one of the world’s primary sustainable resources. The three main components of biomass are cellulose (40-50%), hemicellulose (20-30%), and lignin (10-25%). Cellulose and hemicellulose are currently employed in different industrial applications such as paper making and ethanol production. However, the heterogeneous mixture of lignin fragments is difficult to process when isolated. As a result, it cannot be considered an adequate feedstock for the industry, which requires uniform raw materials with consistent quality. Consequently, less than 2% of the lignin generated annually by these industries is valorized.
Nonetheless, lignin is a versatile molecule with aromatic structure and phenolic functionality. It is a valuable bio-based raw material that can replace a significant fraction of petrochemicals that are harmful to the environment. As such, it can play a buffering role capable of mitigating the negative effects of the future ‘oil crunch’ we might need to face. In addition, lignin has other outstanding attributes: it is biodegradable and a natural UV-blocker, antioxidant, anti-microbial, natural glue-like, hydrophobic, and flame retardant. Every year, around 20 billion tonnes of lignin are produced by means of photosynthesis, on top of the 300 billion tonnes of lignin in the biosphere. Lignin availability in terrestrial biomass is forecast to be around 500 billion tonnes in 2030.
Thanks to our unique, patented thermal solvolytic process (WO2019/053287), making Goldilocks™ is much like preparing an espresso: we ‘simply’ cook solid lignin in any commercially available polar organic solvent (e.g. methanol, ethanol) for 30 minutes, using moderate temperatures (200ºC) and pressures (<50 bars). No additional catalysts are required.
In fact, we have developed and patented (EP19200489.3) a sister process for also producing Goldilocks™ directly from lignocellulosic biomass (i.e. wood) to resolve future issues on availability of biorefinery lignin. For this process, we operate under the same conditions, the main difference being that we need an acid that acts as a catalyst for efficient extraction of lignin fragments from the lignocellulosic matrix.
In addition, due to this mild processing, the lignin Goldilocks™ remains in its natural polymeric structure, slightly fragmented in the form of oligomers, which are now meltable and soluble in any polar organic solvent. Since this configuration is maintained, we are able to keep all high-value functionalities of lignin that are lost when broken into monomers, as current approaches do. These features are later transferred to the resulting materials, fuels or chemicals, thereby greatly improving their properties.