The bio-based transition: bio-mass feedstock (1)


Gert-Jan Gruter
CTO at Avantium and Professor of Industrial Sustainable Chemistry
at the University of Amsterdam

In the previous issues of Chimica OGGI / Chemistry TODAY I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of bio-based drop-in products versus new to the world products. For these new products, the structure that is already present in natural starting materials such as sugars is used. From an atom efficiency point of view, oxygenates are more logical than hydrocarbons.  Bio-based ethylene, ethylene glycol, propylene and para-xylene from carbohydrates (sugars) are examples of drop-in products, while furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA; C6H4O5) and isosorbide from C6 sugars are examples of “new” molecules. The term “new” is used for molecules that may have been known for a long time (FDCA is known for more than 140 years) but that now are considered as future building blocks with bulk scale potential.

Let us now discuss feedstock for these future low cost, large scale building blocks. What are the pro’s and con’s of first, second and further generation bio-based feedstocks? What biorefinery concepts allow “cascading” to create a good fit with downstream chemical applications (versus ethanol) and how sustainable are the options that ar ...