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Avantium and Royal Cosun to Develop Process for Production of Furanics Biofuels and Bioplastics from Ag Waste

Avantium, a high-throughput R&D company with core expertise in catalysis and crystallization, and Royal Cosun, an international group that develops, produces and sells natural foodstuffs and ingredients, are collaborating to develop a specific process for the production of a new generation of bioplastics and biofuels from selected organic waste streams.

Avantium is developing these bioplastics and biofuels under the name Furanics. Furanics are heteroaromatic compounds derived from the chemical intermediate HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural, C6H6O3). (Earlier post.)

Within the collaboration, Cosun will focus on the selection, isolation and purification of suitable components from agricultural waste streams. Avantium will continue to focus on the development of an efficient, chemically catalyzed production process. The duration of the first phase of the collaboration will be approximately two years. With positive results, the companies intend to scale-up the production technology and implement it on commercial scale.

The further optimization of the value of our agricultural products is of great importance for our future. Agricultural products and waste streams will increasingly be used as starting material for the production of chemicals and materials. For several years, Cosun has been active in developing and marketing these applications, focusing on high-grade products. An example is Carboxy Methyl Inulin, which is used as a sustainable additive in water treatment. The collaboration with Avantium for the development of Furanics perfectly matches the vision and developments at Cosun.

—Gert de Raaff, Director Corporate Development at Cosun

As the precursor of many valuable building blocks, HMF has been known and widely studied for decades. Increasingly, the cost-effective development of HMF and its fuel and chemical derivatives from biomass is of increasing research interest (earlier post, earlier post), given that the resulting fuels have significant advantages over first-generation biofuels.

Avantium says that it has been able to find new and improved catalytic routes to specific furanics by using its catalytic process development platform for the conversion of carbohydrates (sugars) to furan derivatives. Avantium has a range of proprietary high-throughput experimentation workflows with proven capabilities, including heterogeneous catalyst preparation; parallel batch reactors; parallel fixed bed reactors; and crystallization research.

Avantium’s Furanics biofuel program aims to develop a new generation of biofuels with both excellent properties (such as high energy density and good miscibility with conventional fuels) and competitive production costs.  The company began engine testing of diesel-furanics blends in 2007. Avantium also notes that Furanics have potential as a jet fuel.

Comparison of Furanics Characteristics
  Diesel Jet A-1 Dimethylfuran
(Dumesic, 2007)
Aromatics [%] 11 (PAC) 25 100 ? 0 - 100
Flash point [°C] 55 - 60 38 -1.7 -11 - +60
Melting point [°C] Varies -47 -62 -120 - -30
Boiling point [°C] 150 - 360 range 92 - 94 80 - >200
Density [15 °C, kg/m3] 850 775-840 900 850 - 1100
Net heat of combustion [MJ/L] 36 33 33 28-34
Source: Furanics, RRB4

In a presentation at RRB4 (Fourth International Conference on Renewable Resources and Biorefineries in Rotterdam, 2008), Ed de Jong, director of Avantium’s biofuel program, noted that the long-term economic success of the Furanics program “is premised on third party development of economic conversion technology for (waste) cellulose to glucose.




There is a new biofuels section on the Idaho National Laboratory's Web site. The link is

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