This joint research update comes from Carl Safi and Wim Mulder from WP7, Biorefining Approaches. Carl and Wim are based at the Wageningen University & Research Centre in the Netherlands.

WP7 has recently been focusing on investigating new pre-treatment and fractionation processes for lignocellulosic biomass, herbaceous biomass and marine biomass (macroalgae). These processes will be evaluated mainly by a round robin study using the three types of biomass and the application of a variety of fractionation processes. In addition, several partners upgraded and/or modified their existing infrastructure to expand the capabilities for fractionation and downstream processing of the extracted products beyond the state of the art.

Miscanthus grass
Miscanthus grass

The round robin study will provide a basis for looking at current performance, variations and important factors that influence the fractionation of biomass, as well as the relevance of the fractionation methods for different valorisation routes of the biomass components. Furthermore, the study will allow for benchmarking the standard protocols available for the characterisation of solid biomass-derived samples. In addition, similarities and differences in performance will be assessed for the same fractionation process using different biomass types.

These advances – beyond the state of the art – can also be used to assess the needs for international standardisation of the fractionation and analysis methods under development to obtain more comparable results.

It is noted that the selection of a promising fractionation method is strongly interlinked with subsequent questions on the feedstock selection as well as products that need to be obtained in the downstream processing after fractionation. The

data and information obtained from this study will be gathered together as a report, and will help the scientific community to elucidate the new findings in a comprehensive and consistent experimental framework. They will also be a basis for creating more standardised procedures in biorefinery activities.