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PROVIDES Report Summary

Project ID: 668970
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.2.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PROVIDES (PROcesses for Value added fibres by Innovative Deep Eutectic Solvents)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The pulp and paper industry has been biobased for centuries. Currently applied technologies for biomass fractionation and recovered paper treatment were developed more than a century ago, and have been optimised ever since. Though some of those processes still require fossil chemicals, high energy consumption and/or create valueless side streams.
The Provides project develops innovative technologies that operate at lower temperatures and pressure using environmentally friendly solvents. These solvents, the so-called Deep Eutectic Solvents (DES), are nature-based, renewable, biodegradable, low-volatile and cost-effective. They can be composed by mixing at least one natural hydrogen bond donor (HBD) with at least one natural hydrogen bond acceptor (HBA), which have high melting points (generally above 100°C), but form low-volatile liquids at room temperature upon mixing. This new class of solvents, of which the first ones were discovered only 14 years ago, have the potential to be utilized in many complex separation challenges.
In PROVIDES many new DES are being developed, and tested either for isolating lignin from lignocellulose and for decontamination of recovered paper. DES solvents that isolate lignin can be used to replace the current pulping technologies, in order to reduce CO2 emission due to lower temperature and pressure and to achieve a higher added value native lignin containing side stream. The other aim of the project is to obtain more efficient processes for decontamination of recovered paper (i.e. removing stickies and/or inks) and/or for cellulose dissolution, in order to avoid large waste streams.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the first 18 months the project has developed many new HBD and HBA combinations that form a DES. Also the first hydrophobic DES ever have been developed. Hydrophobic DES do not mix with water, and they significantly facilitate the process of isolating components from aqueous pulp. Fundamental research has been performed on the stability and phase behaviour of DES. Application oriented research was performed on the functionality of DES as dissolving / separation agent for lignin, cellulose, stickies and ink. Furthermore, pre- and post-treatment technologies have been researched for enhancing the separation processes. Research was also performed on efficient recovery technologies for both the DESs and the dissolved components. It is know that dissolved components can easily be separated by adding water as anti-solvent. Though the project studies technologies that are more energy-efficient and don’t require evaporation of water. First important steps are made towards calculating the economic and ecological feasibility of the total process of delignification. This has resulted in a list of critical points and research questions to solve, which was the basis for a roadmap towards 2030.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Deep Eutectic Solvents are a completely new class of solvents that have never been utilised in the pulp and paper industry or for any other biomass fractionation before. The utilisation of these natural solvents was identified as a truly ground-breaking discovery that has the potential to completely revolutionize the pulping process, opening the way to produce pulp with minimal energy, emissions and residues. They could also be used to recover cellulose from waste and dissolve inks and contaminants in paper for recycling. Though, many technological questions and gaps still need to be developed, to bring this laboratory technology towards a next stage.
PROVIDES aims at filling these gaps, and reaching the following impacts:
- Reducing process energy intensity by at least 40% in compared to traditional pulping processes.
- Reducing of investment costs by 50% compared to current pulping installations, thanks to pressure free layout and simplified chemical recovery.
- Strengthening market position of current wood-based products (e.g. paper, board) as well as new high added value applications, like textile and chemical industries

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