Focus: Advanced Tailored Oligosaccharides

The ATOL 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 etc.

Targeted Users

Because of these properties, they are immensely interesting to a great number of industries: the food industry (stabilizer, thickener), pharmaceuticals (absorbing & gelling agent, excipient), medical devices, the personal care industry (creams, lotions), the cardboard and paper industries. In addition, oligosaccharides can be grafted onto surfaces or used as tunable polar structure in biological, biodegradable and/or biocompatible dispersants.


The main objective of ATOL is to generate the knowledge base which will lead to the development of new pectin-derived functional ingredients. They can be used as building blocks for ingredients with techno-(bio)functional properties, which will improve human and animal health. Two specific objectives are: to gain insight in process-structure-function relations and to develop economically viable prototype processes and products. More specifically, the project focuses on developing such applications as feed additives and dispersants.

Action on Global Goals and SDGs

The project contributes to more healthy human food and animal feed. It contributes for instance to lowering dependency on antibiotics and to lower anti-microbial resistance by using healthier ingredients and units for ingredients which are of a natural, biobased origin.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 10/09/2017
Duration: 01/07/2018 – 30/06/2021
Total budget: €1.153.988
Subsidy: €947.717
Project Partners

Questions about this project? Please contact catalyst Martijn Mertens (

EnzymASE 1

Enzymes for Added Sustainability and Efficiency

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 27/10/2016
Duration: 01/01/2017 – 29/06/2019
Total budget: €1.584.731
Subsidy: €1.318.461
Project Partners

Questions about this project? Please contact catalyst Luc Van Ginneken (


Up-scaling of Innovative Technologies for the Production of Renewable Aromatics

The Interreg project BioHArT particularly focuses on realising the scaling up of bio-aromatics production over the entire value chain: from raw material suppliers over converters to end-users. Bio-aromatics must be produced in sufficient quantities to go through the first steps of application development trajectories and making it more attractive for companies to invest. The quality of the technology developments will increase resulting in a flywheel effect in terms of developing the network needed to form values chains. The uniqueness of BioHArT is that it concerns a cooperation extending national borders. The process installations will be setup on four different complementary locations in the border region between Belgium and the Netherlands.

Project Details
Project type: Interreg
Duration: 06/03/2016 – 05/03/2019
Project Partners

Biovertol 2

Towards Sustainable Synthesis of Branched-Chain Higher Alcohols from Biobased Feedstock

Biovertol 2 is a follow-up project that builds upon a previous Catalisti project, Biovertol 1. Biovertol 1 aimed to develop renewable routes towards short-chain, middle-range and long-chain Guerbet-alcohols. These branched bio alcohols are interesting platform chemicals with compelling physicochemical properties from which a viable and renewable chemistry tree can be built. The project showed that a novel Guerbet process can be developed and that numerous applications comprising biobranched alcohols prove to hold exceptional properties. Biovertol 2 seeks to build upon these successes.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 18/11/2015
Duration: 31/12/2015 – 31/03/2018
Total budget: €1.114.453
Subsidy: €753.777
Project Partners


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. The ARBOREF project 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.

This multidisciplinary project will work on the following 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.
  • How can we best address the separation of different chemicals that result from the conversion technology?
  • 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?
  • 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?
(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 Details
Project type: SBO
Approved on: 18/12/2014
Duration: 01/04/2015 – 31/03/2019
Total budget: €2.999.555
Subsidy: €2.999.555
Project Partners

Carboleum 2

Catalytic Conversion of Carbohydrate Sidestreams to Develop New, Innovative Chemical Applications

Carboleum 2 is a follow-up project that builds upon a previous Catalisti project, Carboleum 1. Carboleum 1 aimed to develop a new economic value chain in Flanders based on the catalytic conversion of carbohydrate sidestreams, in particular cellulosic streams, into new organic alkylamine-based intermediates and thereby support the development of new and improved chemical applications. Whereas Carboleum 1 focussed on the catalytic conversion of less complex feedstock, such as glucose, maltose and starch into aminated intermediates, Carboleum 2 progresses towards the purification and conversion of more complex cellulosic streams.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 18/03/2015
Duration: 31/03/2015 – 29/06/2017
Total budget: €1.556.190
Subsidy: €1.086.280
Project Partners


Manufacturing of Advanced & Innovative Bio-Aromatics

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 Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 18/06/2015
Duration: 01/09/2015 – 31/08/2017
Total budget: €937.901
Subsidy: €765.006
Project Partners


Biogenic Catalysts for Air Purification and Sustainable Materials

The BIOCAPPS project aims 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 Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 19/11/2015
Duration: 01/01/2016 – 31/12/2017
Total budget: €597.554
Subsidy: €488.456
Project Partners


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 to 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.

The iAlgaePro 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 a 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 to SMEs.

Project Details
Project type: CORNET
Approved on: 18/09/2014
Duration: 30/11/2014 – 29/11/2016
Total budget: €366.772
Subsidy: €293.418
Project Partners

Questions about this project? Please contact catalyst Luc Van Ginneken (


Lipase-Catalysed Solvent-Free Esterification of Fatty Acids with Lower Alcohols

The traditional process of ester manufacturing uses high temperatures (150-250°C) and chemical catalysts. This translates into extreme reaction conditions, unwanted side reactions, difficult catalyst recovery and poor product quality requiring energy intensive downstream processing. In contrast, solvent-free enzyme-catalysed esterification is carried out at milder temperatures and results in a highly selective product with no side reactions, minimal post processing as well as significant energy and cost savings. It shows clear advantages compared to traditional processes through process simplification, increased product quality and reduced carbon footprint.

The Lipametics project aimed to develop a solvent-free enzymatic esterification process for the production of fatty acid esters. The project set out to research the raw materials, pilot production, general product specifications and applications for cosmetics and animal feed.

From Innovation to Business
Lipametics investigated solvent-free enzymatic synthesis of 4 types of esters. A coupled enzymatic esterification and membrane assisted water removal (produced during esterification) was demonstrated successfully at VITO at 3 L scale. The process resulted in complete fatty acid conversion and very selective water removal by membrane. Moreover, a high enzyme productivity was achieved without any loss in enzyme activity. VITO provided more than 10kg of product to the companies for application testing in cosmetics (Gova) and animal feed (Nutrition Sciences). The final products met the benchmarked specifications. After validation in cosmetic applications of the enzymatically produced product, upscaling was successfully undertaken to replicate the coupled reactor-membrane setup at 200 L scale in an upgraded pilot installation at Oleon’s site.

The innovations achieved in the Lipametics project will help bridge the gap in available technology for the esterification of fatty acids with lower alcohols. This will result in improved commercial availability of lipase-catalysed esters.

Project Details
Approved on: 18/06/2015
Duration: 01/09/2015 – 31/08/2018
Total budget: €1.119.003
Subsidy: €741.574
Project Partners
Press Publications
Oleon catalyzing a greener future – by Oleon’s Pieter van der Weeën in NPT Magazine – 25 August 2020

Scientific Publications
Lipase-catalyzed solvent-free synthesis of monoacylglycerols in various reaction systems and coupling reaction with pervaporation for in-situ water removal – by Yamini Satyawali, Lieve Cauwenberghs, Miranda Maesen, and Winnie Dejonghe in Chemical Engineering and Processing – Process Intensification, Volume 166, September 2021, 108475 – DOI 10.1016/j.cep.2021.108475