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Obtaining renewable chemicals by valuing sustainable carbon from corncobs

Abstract

Agro-industrial wastes such as corn cob have renewable building blocks such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin that are very attractive for a broad spectrum of industrial and consumer applications. However, for the viable development of technological processes to obtain sustainable products, different pretreatments (thermochemical, chemical, and enzymatic) must be carried out on the biomass. Twin-screw extrusion technology can be a viable pretreatment method due to the simultaneous exposure of the biomass under shear conditions at different temperatures in a continuous flow process. Furthermore, its combination with solvent fractionation (organosolv) can separate the fractions (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin) with high purity and low effluent generation. Fast pyrolysis is a technology that converts the lignocellulosic structure into a liquid mixture of molecules with lower molecular mass, called bio-oil, rich in aromatic monomers and oligomers (pyrolytic lignin). This project proposes using corn cob in different extraction routes (pyrolysis, chemical, and enzymatic) to obtain sustainable carbon from the depolymerization of different lignins (organosolv, enzymatic and pyrolytic) in which the biggest challenge is in the depolymerization of pyrolytic lignin. There will be monitoring and advanced characterization of the products, that is, at the molecular level, as it is essential to know the chemical composition of these products in depth. The monomers obtained are a primary source of hydrocarbons and aromatic compounds containing renewable carbon with a vast potential for industrial application. The project also foresees as sustainable carbon, the obtainment of soluble sugars and nanolignin, and the use of the biochar produced in the pyrolysis process to obtain functional nanobiochar with potential use in the covalent immobilization of enzymes, cryosorption, and application in the decontamination of liquids and gases. In the strategic stages, an environmental assessment of the life cycle will be carried out to verify the potential benefits of this new proposal. With this prerogative, it is expected to seek products from renewable sources from residual biomass abundant in Brazil with the support of partners from Brazilian and German institutions, aiming to stimulate the national development of an industry that in Brazil is still incipient, but which in Europe is already thriving, with several successful startups established. (AU)

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