VTT can analyse the chemical composition and structure of a wide variety of biomass types and their fractions, and thus provide information on their valorisation potential.
The content of cellulose and hemicelluloses is critical when considering raw materials for the sugar platform. On the other hand, lignin as an aromatic biopolymer is a key component for the aromatic platform. Minor components may also be valuable for specialty products.
There is also a need to gather information on the structure of the biomass at microscopic and molecular level, as this defines how easily the biomass components can be separated and converted.
VTT can analyse both the overall composition and detailed structures of various biomass-derived samples.
Typically, acid hydrolysis followed by HPAEC/PAD analysis is used for carbohydrates, but enzymatic hydrolysis and MS detector are available for special purposes, such as oligosaccharide analyses. One special application for carbohydrate analyses is fiber surface analysis. Methanolysis is used especially for the quantitation of uronic acids. Lignin content is determined as acid hydrolysis residue and by UV from solid and liquid samples, selecting the proper method for each sample type. Several specific methods are available for the structural analysis of lignin. Extractives content can be determined gravimetrically, as well as their composition by GC/MS. From process filtrates, various secondary products and inorganic components can be analysed by CE and HPLC. Elemental composition (CHNSO) can be determined for any type of sample. Microscopy combined with staining and fluorescence techniques enable localisation of the biomass components even at cell wall level.
Networks and industrial collaboration
VTT is actively involved in the COST Action “Valorisation of lignocellulosic biomass side streams for sustainable production of chemicals, materials & fuels using low environmental impact technologies”.
VTT’s competence in biomass processing and analytics is mainly based on projects with the pulp and paper industry related to wood processing. While this remains an important sector, a wider scope of raw materials and products is expected to be of interest in the future.