S3Platform project Bi-rex will receive support from the Technical Assistance Facility
29 March 2021 – The project Bi-rex - Biomass Recovery Recycling and extraction, developed by the Politecnico di Milano and Nowal Chimica, will receive the support of the Technical Assistance Facility of the European Commission. This marks an important achievement for the work of the Chemicals Thematic Partnership of the S3Platform, where the project was initially conceived thanks to the collaboration between ECRN, Regione Lombardia and Limburg region.
The Bi-rex project aims to provide a second life to agri-food waste thanks to an innovative process for the recovery of biomass-derived feedstocks using a new class of green solvents: DES (Deep Eutectic Solvents). The process is expected to be fully eco-sustainable, avoiding the use of toxic or corrosive solvents and reagents and saving energy by working at low temperature and atmospheric pressure.
Three are the possible revenue streams identified by the Bi-rex consortium, composed by Politecnico di Milano, Nowal Chimica, 360 Capital, Regione Lombardia, Assolombarda and ECRN:
Cellulose and chitin are the two most abundant biopolymers on Earth with a fast-growing market but their current production is unsustainable, causing the depletion of natural resources. The production of cellulose, for example, now requires up to 300 mln tons of wood per year. The solutions provided by the Project could make the production of paper without trees and fully biodegradable plastic possible.
Many are the possible industrial applications of these three solutions. Sustainable cellulose could be used by both the textile and paper industry and chitin is suitable for waste water treatment, cosmetics, bioplastics, biomedical and pharmaceutical.
The project, now in the pilot phase, will initially focus on easy to collect and unseasonal waste, such as brewer’s spent grain. This type of waste is produced in centralized facilities and with a reliable and controlled process, mostly in Northern Europe. After the market validation, a third-party full independent validation of the process is planned to be conducted in the Limburg region, Netherlands.
The Bi-rex project is a positive example of regional cooperation on industrial modernization. The role of the Chemicals Partnership on S3Platform was fundamental to create those connections that made the development of the project possible. Innovation in the chemical sector faces additional difficulties. Product developments go capital intensive very early and take longer times because of needed and justified products’ regulatory approval processes. This increases risks and puts SMEs that have a harder time at diversifying their portfolio at a disadvantage, thus leaving innovation in the hands of large multinational companies. The S3Platform could indeed provide a solution to this problem, by creating collaborations, sharing risks, and advance modern and competitive European value chains.