Cellulose and lignin constitute an unlimited natural resource for materials production, with the potential to substitute most of the currently used petroleum-based products. However, processing biomass into value-added products, such as cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and lignin nanoparticles (LNPs) is strongly limited by the insolubility these biopolymers, and thus generally requires large volumes of caustic or toxic chemicals and clean water, while generating hazardous waste. The ENBIOMECH project will first develop sustainable, environmentally friendly and efficient methods to produce CNCs and LNPs from biomass by employing enzymes in mechanochemical approaches, through which chemical transformations can be achieved in the solid state without solubilization of the biopolymers. Mechanochemistry will thereafter be used to convert the CNCs into a set of self-sorting nanoscale building blocks, by developing new facile methods for covalent surface modification of CNCs. Finally, various solid-state techniques will be investigated to reach new chiral nanoarchitectures from the obtained CNC building blocks, by gaining control over their supramolecular assembly. Switching to mechanochemical methods provides a fast and simple route to materials discovery, thus the ambitious ENBIOMECH project seeks to deliver a strong impact to the field of renewable bio-based materials by offering resource-conserving technologies to researchers and industry, aligned with the EU goals for the development of a green and sustainable economy. This project will bring together the researcher skilled in mechanochemical methods with the leading experts in cellulose chemistry and nanostructured biohybrid materials (supervisors), within a host institution strongly focussed on the development of bio-based materials and dedicated infrastructure ideally suited for supporting the proposed research.
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