Valuable products from tree barks
Valuable Products from Tree Barks
Most of the energy in the world comes from fossil fuel sources, such as crude oil, but because of the limited amount there is now a lot of focus on finding alternatives to fossil fuel.
The forestry industry is seen as a potential source. Half of all felled wood is left to rot in forests, while half of what is actually processed is also wasted. Chemists at Queen’s, working with the University of Limerick, have developed ways to make fuels and chemicals from waste wood sources, such as twigs, small branches and barks. Waste from wood is mostly used as a low grade fuel, or in cement binders. New methods of valorising or “upcycling” this waste can result in the production of value-added products.
Depolymerisation of suberin and lignin from milled bottle corks or tree barks was conducted a very high temperatures and pressure. Product streams are separated by column chromatography, resulting in the production of aromatics and fatty acids which can ultimately be used in the cosmetics, food and biofuels industries.
As part of the ReNEW project a larger scale reactor has been constructed, capable of higher temperatures and pressures leading to more efficient catalytic processes.
The processes developed in this project will deliver a range of chemical products from low-value forestry waste that could be implemented commercially in Northern Ireland within five years.