One company has found a response to the controversy surrounding the use of food-based raw materials to make biopolymers. CH-Bioforce, a startup based in Espoo, Finland, founded by wood chemists, has developed a novel approach to fractionating biomass and converting all of its components into high-value material streams.
CH-Bioforce technology is able to fragment biomass into its three main constituents with a high degree of purity in an economically profitable way. The resulting biomaterials—dissolving pulp, polymeric hemicellulose and sulfur-free lignin—can replace oil- and food-based raw materials in textiles, packaging, cosmetics and other products.
“Our deep understanding of fundamental biomass chemistry allows us to provide high-end biomaterials that are cost efficient and environmentally friendly,” said Sebastian von Schoultz, co-founder of CH-Bioforce and Chief Business Officer. “We are able to provide a completely new source of feedstock for various industries that, in turn, helps minimize their carbon footprint,” said von Schoultz.
The technology extracts all three biomass constituents in the same process, which the company claims is something that none of the other technologies on the market have managed to do. Because of that, hemicellulose and lignin tend to be burned to generate energy despite their extraordinary material properties, said the company.
Furthermore, while viable investments in current pulping technologies go into the billions, CH-Bioforce is flexible and profitable on a smaller scale. It can utilize almost any kind of biomass—birch, pine or spruce, for example—as feedstock.
“The process also works well using low-quality wood and agricultural residue such as straw, which are not suitable for commonly used pulping processes,” said von Shoultz. “We are able to turn the whole spectrum of biomass sources into high-end, bio-based raw materials that are cost effective and environmentally friendly.”
Together with its partners, CH-Bioforce has conducted intensive material testing and evaluations on the dissolving pulp, polymeric hemicellulose and sulfur-free lignin produced in its pilot plants. Thanks to funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 SME Instrument, the company is now taking the final steps toward commercialization.
“Textiles and packaging are the most obvious examples of applications where our biomaterials can be used, but there is also a huge amount of potential in a number of other fields, such as bioplastics, medical and stabilizers for the food and cosmetic industries,” von Schoultz said.