Unlocking the value in waste wood using ionic liquids.
Currently, our society is heavily relying on the use of crude oil while products are discarded at the end of their lives. We want to change that, which is why we are developing novel chemical processes that enable us to live more sustainably in a clean world.
Our first product is the BioFlex process that uses waste wood and agricultural by-products as well as sustainably grown biomass to produce a greener alternative to today’s petrochemical industry while providing unwanted waste materials with a new purpose.
Lixea is an Imperial College spin-out company developing an innovative biomass fractionation process using low-cost ionic liquids. Currently, our society is heavily relying on the use of crude oil while products are discarded at the end of their lives. We want to change that, which is why we are developing novel chemical processes that enable us to live more sustainably in a clean world. Our first product is the BioFlex process that uses waste wood and agricultural by-products as well as sustainably grown biomass to produce a greener alternative to today’s petrochemical industry while providing unwanted waste materials with a new purpose.
An alternative to crude oil
Lixea’s proprietary process enables the use of any type of woody material for the large-scale production of bio-derived materials, chemicals and fuels. As such, we are promoting the bioeconomy, an economic concept where wood and other forms of lignocellulosic biomass are used instead of crude oil to produce heat, electricity, materials and chemicals.
What are Ionic Liquids?
Solvents of the future
Ionic liquids are a class of solvents comprised exclusively of ions. Unlike table salt, ionic liquids melt at temperatures below 100°C and some are liquid at and below room temperature. They have very low vapour pressure, which makes them safe to handle in an open atmosphere and easily recyclable. Many ionic liquids however have prohibitively high production costs, which has often hindered their industrial application. This is why our team from Imperial College London has specially designed ionic liquids to be cheap. At Lixea, we use ionic liquids which are easily synthesised from bulk chemicals, thermally stable and will cost no more than traditional organic solvents.
Pioneers in Sustainability
In the EU and US alone around 100m tonnes of waste wood remain unrecycled every year. This represents a vast economic loss and an untapped resource.
Converting the waste of today into the raw materials of tomorrow is the key component of the conceptual circular economy. The circular economy is widely deemed as the only truly sustainable economic model.
Lixea therefore provides a key stepping stone to a sustainable future and is in keeping with seven of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The proprietary BioFlex process is a novel pretreatment technology for lignocellulosic biomass, offering unprecedented feedstock flexibility. Different types of biomass, including agricultural residues, energy crops, as well as forestry residues and even waste construction wood, can be used in a one-size-fits-all process. An inexpensive and recyclable ionic liquid separates the different components of biomass, i.e. cellulose and lignin, while by-products as well as heavy metals present in waste wood can be recovered.
Feedstock flexibility: effective for any type of woody material including softwoods
Compatible with metal and organic contaminants like paint and preservatives
High performance: high lignin and hemicellulose removal rate in short reactions
Mild conditions: Near ambient pressure and temperatures below 200°C
No harmful emissions: Ionic liquids have low vapour pressure and are therefore not emitted to atmosphere
Circular economy: Makes use of waste feedstocks, such as demolition wood and agricultural residues
One size does fit all!
The BioFlex process is effective on a range of biomass types, including hardwoods and softwoods as well as heavy metal contaminated mixed waste wood. What is more, most feedstocks can be treated under identical conditions, offering unprecedented flexibilty. We are keen to validate our process with as many wood types as possible, with a particular interest in material that would otherwise be landfilled or incinerated.
Feeding a sustainable chemical industry
The main products from the BioFlex process are cellulose and lignin. Our cellulose is of high purity and can be used for paper, dissolving pulp and nanocellulose applications. BioFlex lignin is virtually sulfur-free and can be used in PFA resins. By-products, such as furfural and acetic acid, both widely used in the chemical industry, can be isolated also. Get in touch if you’d like some of our products to test in your application or to develop new products from them.