Several Lower Austrian companies use aromatic hydrocarbons (especially phenols) in their production processes, which today are usually made from fossil resources (especially crude oil and to a lesser extent also coal). Is it possible to obtain such hydrocarbons from renewable resources?
Those interested in bio-based aromatics come from the chemical industry. Several Austrian research institutions and plant manufacturing companies are already working to harness biogenic resources for this purpose. Lignin and ligninsulphonates, which can be obtained from wood in the pulp industry for example, are particularly suitable for the production of phenols. In any case, the result is a heterogeneous mixture of different aromatic compounds.
In a study by the innovation platform BioBASE, located in the Lower Austrian capital of St. Pölten, the aim is to determine which technologies can be used to modify the aromatic structures naturally occurring in wood and what qualities the various processes can deliver. The idea is to optimize the available processes to meet the requirements that certain applications place on the product. The aim is to determine what quality improvements can be achieved with these processes and what the respective financial expenditure will be.
It is already apparent that pyrolysis processes are very promising for the modification of lignin structures. In this process, the network structures of the lignin are split at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. Such a process does not reduce the heterogeneity of the mixtures, but increases their reactivity. Different aromatic compounds can be obtained by choosing the process conditions (especially the temperature) and fractionation into phases of different aggregate states.
How can organic material cycles be successfully closed in a region and connected with one another so that they can become a model for other locations as a whole? Is it possible to network the relevant stakeholders from public administration, training, research and business with one another in such a way that the added value remains in the region and that they can move together towards CO2 neutrality?