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Green chemistry for the second generation biorefinery - sustainable chemical manufacturing based on biomass

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DatePublished - Jul 2007
Issue number7
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)603-609
Original languageEnglish


The material needs of society are reaching a crisis point. The demands of a growing and developing world population will soon exceed the capacity of our present fossil resource based infrastructure. In particular, the chemical industry that underpins most industries needs to respond to these challenges. The chemical manufacturing and user industries face an unprecedented range and intensity of drivers for change, the greatest of which, REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) has yet to bite. In order to address the key issues of switching to renewable resources, avoiding hazardous and polluting processes, and manufacturing and using safe and environmentally compatible products, we need to develop sustainable and green chemical product supply chains. For organic chemicals and materials these need to operate under agreed and strict criteria and need to start with widely available, totally renewable and low cost carbon - the only source is biomass and the conversion of biomass into useful products will be carried out in biorefineries. Where these operate at present, their product range is largely limited to simple materials (e.g. cellulose), chemicals (e.g. ethanol) and bioenergy[biofuels. Second generation biorefineries need to build on the need for sustainable chemical products through modern and proven green chemical technologies such as bioprocessing, controlled pyrolysis, catalysis in water and microwave activation, in order to make more complex molecules and materials on which a future sustainable society will be based. (c) 2007 Society of Chemical Industry.

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