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Innovative technologies for the pre-treatment and separation of lignocellulosic feedstock and complex composition streams into valuable fractions while maintaining key characteristics


Validate pre-treatment technologies at pilot scale in an industrially relevant environment to allow for the separation of natural bio-based polymers while keeping their main characteristics intact. The types of feedstock included in the scope are lignocellulosic biomass and mixed streams with a complex composition. Proposals should aim to develop technologies that:

  • increase the ‘usability’ of the holocellulose and/or other useful biopolymer fractions in the biomass feedstock by recovering at least 80 % of each for direct valorisation in specific applications and/or in the subsequent step of enzymatic hydrolysis, with a low generation of inhibitory compounds;
  • deliver ‘naturally occurring polymers’ with sufficient purity and quality for efficient processing in the following steps;
  • require less energy and resources and have a lower environmental impact than benchmark technologies currently applied to the same type of feedstock.

Proposals could consider chemical, physical or biotechnological solutions or feasible and sustainable combinations thereof. The developed processing routes should ensure reduction of biomass losses and efficient separation and recovery of other fractions of the treated biomass. Applying the cascading operational concept, these fractions can then also be further exploited.

The industry should actively participate to prove the potential for integrating the developed concepts into current industrial landscapes or existing plants so that deployment of the concepts can be accelerated and scaled up to an industrial level.

Proposals should specifically demonstrate the benefits versus the state-of-the-art and existing technologies. This could be done by providing evidence of new processing solutions and new products obtained.

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL)1 at the end of the project should be 52. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL. The proposed work should enable the technology to achieve TRL 5 within the timeframe of the project.

Proposals should include an environmental assessment using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies, and a cost analysis. Proposals should also include a viability performance check of the developed process(es) based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches.

Indicative funding: It is considered that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 2 million to maximally EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Pre-treatment of biomass is a key step in implementing an economically viable biorefinery. The conventional methods of biomass pre-treatment mainly apply harsh conditions, consume much energy, require significant capital investments and generate inhibitors to the downstream biological processes. These methods can also harm many characteristics of naturally occurring polymers, often hindering their use for a large variety of applications. The ideal pre-treatment should lead to a higher ‘usability’ of the various biopolymers in the biomass feedstock (like cellulose and hemicellulose fractions in a lignocellulosic feedstock) in the subsequent steps, generate low amounts of inhibitory compounds, and limit biomass losses. This pre-treatment technology should also have a high efficiency when applied to different biomasses, require less energy and resources, have a low environmental impact and be economically viable.

The specific challenge is to develop pre-treatment technologies to separate and extract naturally occurring polymers and other useful fractions (for example extractives) of lignocellulosic and mixed biomass streams with complex composition, while keeping their structure essentially intact.

  • contribute to KPI 1: create at least 1 new cross-sector interconnections in bio-based economy clusters;
  • contribute to KPI 2: set the basis for at least 1 new bio-based value chain;
  • reduce operational costs by at least 30 % through lower overall energy consumption and cost as compared with benchmark pre-treatment processes in use for the same type of feedstock;
  • overall reduction of at least 15 % in the carbon footprint of the considered bio-based operation as compared with the state-of-the-art (shown by an LCA taken up in one of the work packages).