Advanced Tailored OLigosaccharides (ATOL)

This project focuses on the production and use of tailored oligosaccharides. Depending on their structure, oligosaccharides are known for their interesting bio-active properties such as prebiotic activity, anti-oxidant, anti-hypertensive, anticoagulant agent, plant elicitors, … They can be used in food industry (stabilizer, thickener), pharmaceuticals (absorbing & gelling agent, excipient), medical devices, personal care industry (creams, lotions), cardboard and paper industries. Additionally, oligosaccharides can be grafted onto surfaces or used as tunable polar structure in biological, biodegradable and/or biocompatible dispersants.
The current industrial partners will focus their efforts on the development of feed additives and dispersants.

The main objective of the ATOL proposal is to generate the knowledge base for developing new pectin derived functional ingredients that can be applied to improve animal and human health and can be used as building blocks for creating ingredients with techno-(bio)functional properties. The two specific objectives are to create new insights in process-structure-function relations and to develop economically viable prototype processes and products.


Project type: ICON
Approved on: 10/09/2017
Duration: 01/07/2018 – 30/06/2021
Total project budget: EUR 1.153.988
Subsidy: EUR 947.717
Partners:         VITO logo blends

Particles In FlowExecution 

Development of continuous crystallization, dispersion and emulsion processes for tuneable (sub)micron particle generation

Organic nano- and microparticles are very important in all kinds of industries, products and applications. Three examples of particles with a high added value for Flemish companies are: organic micron sized crystals of active pharmaceutical ingredients, nano dispersions of coating resins and microcapsules with active ingredients. Four Flemish companies: Omnichem, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Allnex and Devan Chemicals have combined forces with three academic groups, with a proven track record in this field, to tackle problems associated with the production of these particles. Currently, batch reactors are used to produce the particles, but limitations in heat and mass transfer result in little control over the average particle size and particle size distribution and batch to batch variations. Higher standards maintained by the companies and their customers necessitate the industrial researchers to explore new and more robust technologies of particle synthesis. Upon executing this project, a large step in the direction of implementation of continuous processing technology in the Flemish nano- and microparticle production industry is taken.

The main advantages of continuous processing for these particles are:

  1. tuneable particles size and smaller particle size distribution
  2. control over crystal polymorphism and shape
  3. on demand production of low quantities
  4. less use of raw materials due to less out of specification production
  5. less use of mixing energy and solvent in cleaning steps
  6. scalability of processes

The PIF project aims to develop advanced (semi)-continuous processes to accurately control the average particle size, the particle size distribution and (polymorphic) shape of nano- and microparticles.

A complementary team of experts uses fundamental knowledge of the properties of the various solid-liquid systems to study influences of mixing devices, fluid dynamic and interactions between particles mutually and between particles and reactor components. This knowledge is used to design continuous reactors at lab and pilot scale.

Project type: ICON
Approved on: 26/10/2017
Duration: 01/11/2017 – 30/04/2020
Total project budget: EUR 1.780.259
Subsidy: EUR 1.432.057


Refining of wood to aromatics

While the conversion of cellulose and hemicellulose to fuels and chemicals has already been extensively studied, the conversion technology for lignine valorsization is developed significantly less. This evolution is mainly due to the structural complexity and heterogeneity of this aromatic biopolymer. Both the pulp and paper industry, as in the growing bio-ethanol production, the lignin residual is currently mainly used as low-value energy source.
Publications and patents concerning lignine conversion are mainly focused on the production of biofuels and oxygen-free hydrocarbons. This pioneering work offers interesting opportunities, but there is a huge competition in those markets from other biomass types and petrochemicals. The discovery of shale gas and oil complicates the justification to generate fuels from biomass. In addition, biomass has a problem of scale, which makes that future bio-refineries will/can not provide mega ton production of chemicals, so that a clear choice must be made for the production of a handful of (valuable) chemicals in stead of a very wide range of products. For this reason, building blocks for polymers are to be preferred.
While already a lot of building blocks are produced from renewable resources, sustainable production of molecules with aromatic structure is still very challenging. This SBO therefore intends to propose a bio-refinery for aromatics, describing chemical routes for the production of some essential aromatics from renewable raw materials such as wood and grasses.

Central to the project is a recently developed KU Leuven technology, which converts wood into high yields of mono-phenols (from lignin), and a fixed (hemi) cellulose pulp (1). Useful aromatics will be produced from both fractions in this project. On the one hand, the phenols are reduced to building blocks that can be used in the polyurethane, polyester, polyamide, polycarbonate and phenolresin industry. On the other hand, the sugar pulp is also used for the production of aromatics such as benzene, styrene, and terephthalic acid. The ultimate ambition is to set up a biorefinery, which produces aromatics from timber with 90% carbon efficiency.

The multidisciplinary project comes from the context of FISCH, will be conducted at four Flemish universities and works around these basic issues and challenges:

  • What is the ideal raw material (plant species) for bio-aromatics synthesis? Understanding the structure of the plant components and their relative proportions in the cell wall in relation to the convertibility of the plant species is very important (Prof. Wout Boerjan, UGent – VIB expertise).
  • How can we best address the separation of different chemicals, that result from the conversion technology from KULeuven? (Prof. Ludo Diels, VITO expertise).
  • How convertible is the sugar pulp fraction in yeast fermentation processes and chemical catalysis and thermal processes to aromatic building blocks for the chemical industry? (Prof. Johan Thevelein, KULeuven-VIB, Prof. Bert Sels KULeuven and Prof. Kevin Van Geem, UGent expertise)
  • What are the most interesting synthetic routes from the lignin fraction, which allow both synthesis of existing chemicals such as phenol, but also new chemicals for polymer and fine chemical applications? (Prof. Bert Sels, KULeuven and Prof. Bert Maes, UA expertise).

(1) Van den Bosch et al. Reductive lignocellulose fractionation into soluble lignin-derived phenolic mono- and dimers and processable carbohydrate pulp Energy Environ. Sci., 2015, DOI: 10.1039/C5EE00204D

Project information
Project type: SBO
Approved on: 18/12/2014
Duration: 01/04/2015 – 31/03/2019
Total project budget: EUR 2.999.555
Subsidy: EUR 2.999.555
Partners: kuleuven logo_UA_hor_kl_0 associatie UGent VIB VITO logo blends


Manufacturing of Advanced & Innovative bio-Aromatics

During strategic meetings between FISCH and the Flemish universities and knowledge institutes, the theme ‘bio-aromatics’ was recognized as strategically important for Flanders. Several pathways towards the production of bio-aromatics were defined and resulted amongst others in the MAIA concept. The overall goal of MAIA is to fully utilize the natural functionality of biomolecules by catalytically converting preferably waste wood and flax shives into solubilized proto-lignin fractions and a solid (hemi-)cellulose pulp with a main focus on the production of aromatic molecules with a maximized amount of (hydroxyl) functionalities and a (hemi-)cellulose fraction suitable for further processing into paper or functional sugars. This altered scheme for the biorefinery of wood, compared to existing paper mills, intends to maintain the reactivity of the derived molecules by producing a limited variety of bio-aromatic compounds. In this project the waste wood and flax shive refinery will be fine-tuned in function of several selected applications represented by 5 industrial partners, such as dispersion agents and emulsifiers, resins for ink, foundry, refractory and wood modification, wood adhesives, UV-stabilizers and flavours.

Project type: ICON
Approved on: 18/06/2015
Duration: 01/09/2015 – 31/08/2017
Total project budget: EUR 937.901
Subsidy: EUR 765.006
Partners: chemstream Beaulieu_main_RGB_50mm cobalin lawter Sita TransFurans Chemicals


Biogenic catalysts for air purification and sustainable materials


Through this project, TomAlgae, Genano Benelux/Gevoc and Fibreuse would like to develop diatom microalgae for customized silica based catalysts applied in air purification and sustainablematerialsby means of a sustainable bottom-up self-assembly process. The project includes the
cultivation of diatoms and their separationinto biomass and silica frustule towards applications in air purification and biobased material development.


Diatoms are an extremely diverse group of unicellular algae that self-assemble soluble silicon (Si(OH)4) into a porous, intricate siliceous cell wall, called frustule. Diatom frustules possess a unique combination of physical and chemical properties (chemical inertness, high mechanical strength, large surface area, low density, good porosity and highly ordered features from nano to micro scale) making diatom frustules highly promising for use in applications such as light harvesting, chromatography, (photo)catalysis, drug delivery, photonics, biosensors and adsorption. The diatom frustules are formed under ambient conditions and consist of hydrated silica with specific 3D morphologies and micro-, meso or macroporosity. A remarkable characteristic of diatoms is their ability to bioaccumulate soluble titanium out of cell culture medium and incorporates this into the 3D-nano-architecture of the frustule. These natural biosilica-titania materials have excellent properties for catalytic purposes like air purification. Additionally, bioaccumulation of other elements in the frustule as well as the use of pure frustules has great potential as sustainable materials. This project focuses on the valorisation of both the biomass and the frustule portion aiming at a full cradle-to-cradle approach.

This project will result in two valorisation pathways of diatom frustules. On the one hand an optimized bio-template production process for mesoporous silica-titania catalysts at Tomalgae will lead to an efficient, sustainable, economically and ecologically viable air purification process tested by Genano Benelux/Gevoc. On the other hand Fibreuze can use the optimized silica production process at Tomalgae for the development of biobased materials.

This project aligns with our Renewable Chemicals program . It proposes studying, developing and optimizing a sustainable, biogenic production route for the synthesis of catalysts for air purification that is scalable from lab level to industrial level. This project also proposes to exploit microalgae, a new biomass source.

Project information
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 19/11/2015
Duration: 01/01/2016 – 31/12/2017
Total project budget: EUR 597.554
Subsidy: EUR 488.456
Partners:          logo_UA_hor_kl_0


Innovative Algae Processing for nutraceuticals in Food and Feed

Algae have a number of properties that allow to produce a wide range of products in a more sustainable manner than via the existing value chains. The main goal of the iAlgaePro project is tp develop innovative processes for algae processing based on algae production with “Mesh Ultra Thin Layer” technology, harvest based on submerged membranes and “Spiral plate” technology, treatment with “Pulsed Electric Fields (PEF)” and mild separation and extraction technologies.

This will i) provide solutions to the industry for the exploitation of algae as an alternative source for high quality functional proteins for food and animal feed, and ii) bring an innovative technological breakthrough in terms of more efficient cultivation and drainage principles, as well as mild pretreatment and separation processes.

This project offers a strong added value for Flanders on several areas. It allows us to further stimulate the economy algae in Flemish companies. The usergroup of this project consists of actors/companies in the entire value chain, from primary production to valorization, which emphasizes the broad support. Also, the creation of a an algae economy is an European story. The involvement of German companies and research institutes, will allow the companies to expand their network and enhance their knowledge in an international network. The project is also highly relevant to the industrial economy in Flanders and in particular SMEs.

Join the iAlgaePro LinkedIn group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/iAlgaePro-8237122/about

Project information
Project type: CORNET
Duration: 01/12/2014 – 30/11/2016
Partners: FEI (Research Association of the German Food Industry), FISCH (Flanders Innovation Hub for Sustainable Chemistry), DIL (Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik eV), ILU (Institut für Lebensmittel- und Umweltforschung e.V.), VITO (Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek), BoerenBond Projecten vzw

FREE FOAMCompleted 

Functional, Reach compliant, Ecologically and Economically responsible foaming of polymer products


Sustainability and the introduction of new properties (functionalization) are the main drivers to produce foam polymers. The incorporation of gas into the polymer matrix (1) strongly reduces the density resulting in material and energy savings and (2) creates new properties, such as thermal, acoustic and electric insulation, comfort and dimensional stability.

Provided that “microcellular gas cells” can be incorporated into the polymer matrix, the intrinsic mechanical and thermal properties of the basic polymers can be maintained and other properties, such as impact resistance and dimensional stability can even be improved, so that polymer foams may also be applied in structural applications.

To build up foam in a polymer matrix, one may use physical and/or chemical foaming agents or add syntactic microspheres/ granulates that will expand under the influence of temperature. However, several foaming agents and/or microspheres have some major ecological and/or economic drawbacks:

  • The chemical foaming agent ADCA (Azodicarbonamide) that is most often applied in polymer foams has been identified as a SVHC component (list of December 2012) for it can provoke respiratory problems. Recently, ECHA has included ADCA on the draft list for prioritisation.
  • The use of super critical CO2 as a physical foaming agent requires special machinery and a licence.
  • Microspheres or granulates filled with HC (hydrocarbon) contain inflammable gases limiting their application.

To give a competitive and ecologically valid answer to the increasing demand of foam polymer products (strong demand of insulation materials, lighter plastics, etc.), it is necessary to reconsider the foaming technology and the chemical agents that are being used. The economically sound substitution of SVHC foaming agents is an urgent challenge for the plastics processing, textile, coating and other industrial sectors. Substitution not only means a switch from one foaming agent supplied by one producer to another (in as far as they are available for the diverse polymers), but also means the related process and product developments and possible adaptations to the machinery.

Target Group

The research project addresses foam applications in textile and plastics processing sectors:

  • Producers of polymer products applying (or wishing to apply) physical and/or chemical foaming agents: plastics processing companies using extrusion and injection moulding; coating, laminating companies; producers of floor and wall coverings, of PUR or PS foam blocks, packaging products and composites.
  • Polymer producers and chemical companies with micro-encapsulation technology
  • Producers and suppliers of chemicals used polymer foaming (foaming, nucleating agents, foam stabilizers, etc.)
  • Compounders
  • Machine manufacturers and technology suppliers

The research project will perform the following tasks:

  • Screening and characterisation of foaming and nucleating agents that may be used in polymer foaming (thermosets, thermoplastics, composites, coatings)
  • In the case of textile coating: substitution of exothermic foaming agents by endothermic ones of combinations, for both plastisols (PVC) and dispersions (acrylate or polyurethane)
  • In the case of plastics: substitution of exothermic foaming agents by endothermic ones, evaluation of physical foaming, solid state pre-saturation, foam beads and micronized chemical foaming agents.
  • (Semi) industrial trials
  • Characterisation of the foam structures
Project information
Project type: VIS Project
Approved on: 19/03/2015
Duration: 01/06/2015 – 31/05/2017
Total project budget: EUR 618.286
Subsidy: EUR 494.630
Partners: Freefoaming partners


Lipase catalyzed solvent free esterification of fatty acids with lower alcohols

Every year, about 100,000 tons of natural fatty acids are used in the production of various esters of fatty acids.The esters with lower alcohols (methyl, ethyl -n-propyl, isopropylandbutylesters) are used as emollient in cosmetics and other personal care products and lubricants. Esters of fatty acids with poly alcohols are used in food and personal care.

Lipase-based esterification in the absence ofsolvent shows clear advantages compared to traditional chemical processes through process simplification, increased product quality and reduced carbon footprint.Today, the commercial availability of lipase-catalyzed esters is very limited due to a gap in available technology for the esterification of fatty acids with lower alcohols.

The current partners in this project will research the raw materials, pilot production, general product specifications(Oleon) and applications for cosmetics (Gova) and feed (Nutrition Sciences).

Approved on: 18/06/2015
Duration: 01/09/2015 – 31/08/2018
Total project budget: EUR 1.119.003
Partners: gova Logo-Nutrition-Sciences-300x115 VITO logo blends


Flame Retardants for optimal plastic applications


A fire hazard occurs when the appropriate conditions are present; a combustible material, oxygen and an ignition source. Plastics have the property that they burn easily, reach high temperatures during combustion and toxic gases are released during combustion. It’s mainly these toxic products that cause fatalities. The most common cause of death by fire, is the release and inhalation of carbon monoxide (CO). Every year, more than 5,000 people die in fires in Europe and more than 4,000 in the United States.

So it is ‘vital’ that the Flemish plastics industry pays attention to this danger, the rules, the incorporation of flame retardants in plastics and the various new technologies that are available for this purpose. In the near future, it will be more and more important to tune the used flame retardant technology to the (plastics)application or product. And as it is with many critical applications, are the requirements, standards and testing becoming increasingly stringent.

Intrinsic flame retardant plastics, plastics in which flame retardant additives are incorporated or that have flame retardant coatings, have a wide range of applications in very different domains, such as electricity, transportation and automotive, foam systems and interior. They work in different ways and in this study we want to list the different possibilities, with emphasis on the latest technologies and features. The advantages and disadvantages of the technologies will be clearly stated and also the economic and regulatory aspects will be taken into account.

The objectives of this feasibility study are:

  • to make an inventory of the available flame retardants, synergistic effects and their usefulness for plastics (processing) companies
  • to make an inventory of the recent research landscape (patent search) to also take into account the latest techniques (the so-called state-of-the-art)
  • to make an inventory of and understand the regional and European regulations, environmental legislation and toxicology
  • to develop a methodology for Flemish companies to help them understand the latest regulations and to have their products comply with these requirements

The study will apply to different products (thermoplastics, thermosets, rubbers) and processing techniques (eg, compounding, injection molding, extrusion, thermoforming). The feasibility study can be followed by one or more follow-up projects to develop new flame-retarding materials or techniques or to implement new techniques within plastic processing companies.

Project information
Project type: VIS project
Approved on: 20/11/2014
Duration: 01/01/2015 – 30/10/2015
Total project budget: EUR 90.357
Subsidy: EUR 72.287
Partners: FPV_divisionFISCH centexbel associatie UGent