Biobased Chemistry

The Flemish industry currently relies heavily on fossil-based raw materials. Oil, for example, is a well-known fossil-based feedstock. It is not only used to make fuel, but also to produce plastics. Burning these plastics after usage releases CO2 into the atmosphere.

The Moonshot initiative seeks to reduce this type of CO2 emissions. Specifically, the first Moonshot research trajectory on biobased chemistry (MOT1) will drive innovative research into alternative, renewable and CO2-friendly feedstocks like biomass.

Biomass

Biomass, like wood, crops or other plant-based materials, is an abundantly available natural resource that can replace fossil-based feedstocks like oil.

In biorefineries, both biomass and biomass waste streams, such as plant-based waste from kitchens and gardens, can be converted into renewable basic building blocks. These can, in turn, be used to make safe, sustainable variants of traditional fossil-based products. This way, biomass can be used to produce all kinds of high-value and high-functionality products, from plastics to cosmetics.

Replacing fossil-based feedstocks, like oil, with renewable raw materials, like biomass and biomass waste, reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Biobased chemistry is therefore a crucial pathway to make the Flemish industry carbon circular and low in CO2 by 2050.

Challenges

There are, however, challenges to overcome. Ground-breaking technology needs to be developed to convert biomass into a broad range of building blocks. New conversion pathways and separation processes need to be designed to turn biobased feedstocks into high-end applications like advanced materials, dedicated solvents and tailored additives. Additionally, energy consumption and production costs need to be lowered. MOT1 seeks to overcome these challenges.

Goals and KPIs

The first Moonshot research trajectory on biobased chemistry aims to:
1. Develop at least 2 new biobased chemical products up to TRL 6 in Flanders by 2025, followed by at least 2 new products to TRL 6 every 5 years thereafter. Compared to similar fossil-based products, these new products should have at least equivalent functionality/value and/or new functionality with a potential higher added value.
2. The products and processes will be more sustainable in terms of carbon footprint and environmental impact than their fossil-based counterparts.

These goals have to be met within the following preconditions:
3. The products are based on stable, competitively priced supply chains/raw materials from the circular use of biomass and the rational use of crops.
4. The end products must be able to play an important role in (future) Flemish industrial value chains and have considerable global market potential.

Projects in MOT1 Biobased Chemistry