Plastic Recuperation and Valorisation Fit for Use

The PROFIT project will reverse engineer products with recycled content and define and produce feedstock from recycling which are fit for use. Starting from applications and plastic products the project will define properties and specifications for feedstock. Using these specifications, novel separation techniques will be developed for 2 different complex and mixed plastic waste streams. This approach throughout the value chain and through reverse engineering allows a cost effective and efficient process. Water management and use of chemicals will be optimized through water purification techniques. Using Life cycle analysis, these any claims on efficiency and sustainability will be continuously monitored.

Project Results

On 25 November 2020, Ghent University hosted a webinar to present the final results and conclusions of the two Catalisti-ICON projects MATTER & PROFIT. The webinar presented some techno-scientific insights in valorising plastics from comingled waste, chemical vs. mechanical recycling and what the new P+MD bag will mean for Belgium. The main conclusions and their implications for plastic recycling were discussed during a panel conversation moderated by Kim Ragaert (Ghent University), with panelists Erik Moerman (Indaver), Nico Kimpe (Vanheede), Jan Van Havenbergh (Catalisti), Steven De Meester and Philippe Gendebien (Fost Plus). The information about PROFIT starts at 01:28.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 01/12/2016
Duration: 01/01/2016 – 31/12/2019
Total budget: €622.182
Subsidy: €403.337
Project Partners

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 (


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


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 (


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 Details
Project type: VIS
Approved on: 19/03/2015
Duration: 01/06/2015 – 31/05/2017
Total budget: €618.286
Subsidy: €494.630
Project Partners


Supercritical Solutions for Sidestream Valorisation

Currently, a market trend towards the upgrading of sidestreams to high added value ingredients through development of innovative know-how is present. Indinox (a company that has achieved a strong position in the market with the prefabrication, construction, assembly and installation of pipelines) and Eco Treasures (a company active in the extraction of natural components) target to make available and promote to the market isolated, high value added components, that have been produced sustainably from organic/biological side streams. Indinox is part of the Gumiro holding, which is the main shareholder of Eco Treasures. Both companies have joined forces with some other companies (e.g., Cargill), that are also interested in the upgrading of sidestreams to high-value raw materials.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 18/06/2015
Duration: 01/09/2015 – 31/08/2018
Total budget: €1.437.368
Subsidy: €1.256.808
Project Partners


Development of a Center of Expertise and Pilot Production Installation for Industrial Flow Processes in Flanders

The fine-chemical processing industry in Flanders is to date still almost exclusively organized in terms of relatively large multi-purpose batch installations. Mainly under influence of the pharmaceutical industry in Europe and the US, a lot of research efforts have emerged in the field of continuous processing in the last decade. At first, this research was mainly focused towards small scale laboratory work, in the last couple of years more and more reports of pilot-scale and even full scale production developments in flow chemistry are being made. With the exception of some individual companies, the fine-chemical processing industry in Flanders is currently lagging behind in its adaptation of continuous processing.

With the ATOM project, the consortium wishes to make a start in building a true knowledge platform around flow chemistry in Flanders, and to investigate the feasibility of a flexible flow chemistry pilot production installation that would be open for contract manufacturing and pilot production for interested partners. By bringing together four industrial partners with a keen interest in this new technology and four academic groups with a proven track record in this field, we plan to make a serious step in the direction of anchoring the continuous processing knowledge needed to implement this technology in the Flemish chemical processing industry. Specifically, the main goals of this project can be summarized as follows:
  • Evaluate a number of specific processes from the partnering companies under flow conditions and prepare them for scale-up, if appropriate. The processes to be studied will cover a wide span of reaction conditions (multiphase, highly exothermic,…) so they can be considered to be generic for other applications from current and possibly future partners as well.
  • Gather the design input needed for the development of a multipurpose pilot plant flow reactor to produce pilot quantities of identified materials
  • Setting up a scientific, technological and economical centre of expertise for flow reactors, available for broad use by the Flemish chemical industry
Target Group
Companies exploring the possibilities of flow technology to increase their production efficiency. Assuring that the scientific and technological knowledge is available and accessible, together with an accessible pilot plant facility, it will be possible for both the industrial partners from this project and other interested parties from within the Flemish chemical community to make a well-motivated choice between batch processing and flow processing for different chemical processes.

Learn more about the technology

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 18/06/2014
Duration: 31/08/2014 – 31/10/2016
Total budget: €1.695.572
Subsidy: €1.325.140
Project Partners

Bio Wax

Production of Economically Viable Alternatives to Petroleum-Based Wax and Olefins



Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 20/11/2014
Duration: 01/01/2015 – 31/12/2016
Totaal budget: €570.947
Subsidy: €467.052
Project Partners

Questions about this project? Please contact catalyst Bert Boekaerts (