Biobased aromatics – inspired by nature for everyday materials

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Karolien Vanbroekhoven - Programme Manager, VITO - Sustainable Chemistry Technologies Unit

Short description of the presentation:

VITO’s research activities are dedicated to valorization of biomass through conversion of lignocellulose into value-added bio-aromatics, primarily for use as building blocks within the chemical industry. Depolymerization of lignin typically results in complex mixtures comprising a wide array of phenolics, bearing a variety of oxygen-based functionalities and covering a broad range of molecular weights. However, in many cases, valorization of these lignols can only be pursued from well-defined fractions. In this context, the principal focus is the development and demonstration of membrane processes for fractionation and purification of lignins and lignin degradation fragments to enable the use of these molecules in chemical and materials applications followed by functionalization.
VITO is co-initiator of Biorizon, an industry driven Shared Research Center, focusing on Technology development for the production of functionalized biobased aromatics for performance materials, chemicals & coatings supported by a Roadmap, inspired by an Industry driven community. As the leading institute, VITO coordinates the development of lignin derived bioaromatics by its own technology and collaboration with many different technology providers (


Karolien Vanbroekhoven is Programme Manager in the Sustainable Chemistry Technologies Unit within the Flemish institute for technological research (VITO) since 2009. VITO is a leading European independent research and consultancy centre in the areas of cleantech and sustainable development, elaborating solutions for the large societal challenges of today, including the evolution towards a biobased economy. VITO has 750 highly-qualified employees who work on international projects all around the world. . After obtaining her master degree in bioprocess engineering at the Catholic University of Leuven in 1998, she obtained her PhD in the field of environmental biotechnology in 2003. Since 2008, she is responsible for a group of 22 people who is developing innovative technologies in the field of  sustainable chemistry, like CO2 capture and utilization, and lignin to aromatics. She is responsible for the management of Biorizon, a shared research centre related to biomass and bioaromatics from lignin and for building new collaborations.


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