KU Leuven is the largest university in Belgium, conducts fundamental and applied research in all academic disciplines with a clear international orientation, and is a charter member of LERU. In the Times Higher Education ranking KU Leuven is ranked as the 21st European university, while in the Reuters Top 100 of the World’s most innovative institutions, KU Leuven is listed as the first European university.
Within KU Leuven, the Center for Sustainable Catalysis and Engineering (CSCE), constitutes a large interdisciplinary team involved in teaching and research on sustainable chemistry and catalysis. Over the past years, the CSCE has grown substantially and currently counts more than 45 people. CSCE’s group of Bert Sels focusses on the catalytic valorization of biomass for the production of chemicals, amongst others with a strong focus on lignocellulose valorization. The development of reductive catalytic fractionation (RCF) -the so-called “lignin-first biorefinery”- has been a core activity since 2014, generating world-leading expertise in the field of lignocellulose valorisation, highly relevant to the SMARTBOX project.
The unique feature of RCF is the selective production of specific lignin monomers from lignocellulosic biomass in near theoretical yields. The structural resemblance of the resulting monomers with the in SMARTBOX targeted high-value products allows the development of high-yielding biocatalytic conversions with only one enzyme. In the SMARTBOX project, KU Leuven will further investigate the RCF process to obtain the preferred monomers in optimal yields and purity, targeting maximal industrial feasibility. Furthermore, KU Leuven will scale up the RCF process to pilot scale to allow application testing on larger scale and to pave the way towards commercialization.
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