Demonstrator brings bio-aromatics from organic waste a step closer

21 Oct 2017

A demonstrator that shows it is possible to reach production levels of several kilograms of bio-aromatics from vegetal waste per day. With the Continuous Flow Diels-Alder Skid, the partners in the Biorizon project BIO-HArT have reached an important milestone.

In Biorizon TNO is working with ECN and VITO to develop technologies for use with organic waste to produce furans, as a raw material for aromatics. In a wide range of projects, researchers are focusing on many aspects of the value chain. In the BIO-HArT project, it's all about upscaling the conversion of furans into aromatics.

Switching between glassware and process experiments

“When we embarked on the project, we had a number of chemical routes in mind that we thought were good candidates,” says TNO process technologist Leon Geers looking back. “Under my responsibility, we started on a pathway that necessitated, in parallel to the chemistry, that we develop process technology. On the one hand, working at lab scale, we had to test which chemistry worked well and had the potential to be high-yield in economic terms. On the other hand, we were supposed to research whether what we were doing on that small scale with test tubes and glassware could translate to processes on an industrial scale, i.e. to stirred vats, piping and pumps. This meant continually switching between glassware and process experiments.”

The BIO-HArT project has been made possible by a contribution from the European Interreg V Flanders-The Netherlands programme that stimulates innovation, sustainable energy, a healthy environment and the labour market by means of cross-border projects.

Target aromatics

The demonstrator they ultimately created takes furans as the starting material for producing a variety of bio-aromatics. In particular the monomers MPA and HMA show strong potential. “These are the two target aromatics we are now working on,” says project manager Nadine Wennersbusch. “Together with the industry concerned, we believe that their large-scale use is foreseeable in the shorter term. In future we also plan to use this demonstrator to upscale other molecules. The set-up is located for the time being at Plant One Rotterdam and will eventually be installed on the Green Chemistry Campus in Bergen op Zoom. We produced the design ourselves, but for the construction we often work closely with specialist companies, in this case ZETON.”

Several kilograms per day

What's the next step? “We are now going to demonstrate that what we claimed – that it should also be possible on a larger scale – really is the case. After all, that's why we designed the demonstrator. So, using the target molecules we've been working on in this project, we will show that it is possible to achieve production levels of several kilograms a day. This project runs until 2018. In 2025 we expect to be able to present the first commercial production facility that showcases not only this part of the process, but an integrated process from start to finish.”

Sustainable future

Over the course of the project TNO has already worked with some ten industrial companies: “We are keen to speak to other companies willing to test, on a kilogram scale, the samples we produce in their end-user applications. This offers them a unique opportunity to share their particular wishes about the characteristics of the samples and to benefit from the results. Now that I have seen our research translated to a set-up measuring 3 metres high and 4 metres wide, I can really imagine that it will soon form part of a factory and that we really are moving towards a sustainable future.”

For a unique virtual reality model of the Continuous Flow Diels-Alder Skid, visit:

Biorizon website
See also


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