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Within TNO Energy Transition my focus lies on the pyrolysis of biogenic materials (e.g. biomass residual streams such as lignin) and anthropogenic materials (e.g. waste plastics) into sustainable energy, chemicals and materials for the circular (biobased) economy. In close cooperation with industry and other knowledge institutions, I work on the development and market introduction of pyrolysis as a generic technology in combination with catalysis and separation technology for the conversion of biomass and plastic waste streams into valorisable products.
In addition, a second important area of my research is in biomass refinery that aims to develop new technologies with companies to convert different types of biomass into fuels, chemicals and materials. These technologies are an important part of the transition to a biobased economy. The focus is on the fractionation of second generation biomass (lignocellulose) by means of the patented FABIOLA™ organosolv process. This process produces hydrolysable cellulose and pure hemi-cellulose sugars as well as a lignin suitable for high-grade applications such as chemicals and materials.
Regarding biomass pyrolysis, it has been shown that lignin and lignin-rich types of biomass can be converted into a limited portfolio of valorisable aromatic products using the concept of PYRENA – PYPO (PYrolysis for RENewable Aromatics with PYrolysis Product Obtention), a specific fast pyrolysis – based method using integrated combustion of char and fractional condensation of the pyrolysis vapours. Examples are biobased additives (functional aromatics) for materials such as marine fuels, bitumen, rubber, epoxy- and phenol-formaldehyde resins and adipic acid.
Regarding plastic waste pyrolysis, thermal fingerprinting experiments recently indicated that commercial waste materials such as end-of-life-mattress materials can be converted into potential chemical feedstocks for a variety of applications such as chemically recycled plastic and specific individual chemicals. Orienting pyrolysis activities with spent wind turbine blades revealed possibilities to recover the glass / carbon fibers of the composite for re-use in different applications.