Research & Development
Cellulose was first discovered in 1838 by the French chemist Anselme Payen. Large scale cellulose industry was established in second half of the 19th century. Since then, an enormous treasure of knowledge about the chemistry of wood has been developed and refined, as well as skills about how to use the knowhow industrially.
Still, research of various kind about how to use wood is intensifying, as well as work for practical development of new industrial processes. One area is what we can call “wood refinery”, within the broader concept of “bio refinery”. Both the big forest industry corporations and small startups are seeking new solutions which can be seen as within the “wood refinery” concept.
Our work is within the “wood refinery” concept.
Wood Refinery Concept
The main components of wood are shown to the left. These are bound together. Each species are different, and differences within the species. But these main components are always present.
In our main process we are extracting the hemicellulose. Then at least two different products are being made. The reason we are doing it is that the value of the two products separately is higher than without separation, and the increased value is higher than the cost making two different products.
The wood sugar we are extracting today is composed of different kinds of sugar (see about wood sugar chemistry). These can in principle be separated and made into new products, with various levels of costs. For us it is very important to prioritise the R&D work with a clear understanding of the economic and market possibilities.
Separating the main components is being done in large scale in the cellulose / pulp industry. The primary objective is usually to manufacture cellulose fibers of high quality. The byproducts, lignin and hemicellulose, has traditionally mostly been used as fuel at the cellulose plant.
We are not making high quality cellulose fibres. However, our concept has some important advantages compared to the cellulose industry:
- We can use wood that do not meet the requirements for the cellulose and paper industry. We give increased value to such wood.
- One example is sawdust, which is almost ideal for us, but the fibres are not long enough for the cellulose industry.
- Another example is wood that can only be used as fuel, due to lack of demand from industrial buyers
- We do not use chemicals in our main process, which enables us to make animal feed products quite easily.
- The production unit for our technology can be much smaller than cellulose plants, and still be competitive. That is important for meeting local needs for offtake of wood.
The world of forestry and forest industry is big. We are in a small, but important niche. We see R&D opportunities which will make it even more important.