Selective extraction of high value molecules from forest products processing residues in the speciality chemicals sector




01. July 2019 - 30. June 2022


0,07 FTE


Samo Kreft


4.01.02 Biotechnical sciences / Forestry, wood and paper technology / Wood technology

Research Organisation:







Forest-based industries, especially pulp and paper industries, produce huge quantities of bark during primary processing activities. In 2017 alone, the European pulp and paper industry used close to 149 million cubic meters of wood. The bark reduces the quality of wood products and is removed and mainly burned for energy production. In pulp and paper industries, a wet debarking process is used for bark removal producing toxic debarking water as a by-product. For each cubic meter of wood, up to 2 m3 of water is used for debarking. 20-40% of the dry weight of the bark that is removed contains lipophilic and hydrophilic extractives which must be treated in a costly process due to their toxicity. However, these industrial stream residues contain bioactive compounds with a wide range of potential high-value applications in the human healthcare and functional foods sectors. Of these compounds, polyphenols are present in large amounts and are of commercial interest. Many polyphenols are shown to have antioxidative activity, a free-radical scavenging capacity, and are used in research programs for coronary heart disease prevention, anticancer activity, or anti–HIV functions. These biochemicals are also a potential source of numerous product innovations and can act as alternatives to oil-based chemicals. Finding methods to remove large amounts of these extractives is of great environmental importance but also presents an economic opportunity. This project will develop a methodology for accessing these valuable polyphenols from wet and dry debarking processes, adding value to toxic waste materials. The project is at a basic research level, with the potential to be used at an industrial and commercial level. A sustainable and repeatable process by the use of functionalised magnetic particles will be developed for the collection of polyphenols from residue streams followed by a monolith-based separation. To more fully understand the influence of key processing parameters on polyphenol extraction efficiency and accuracy in targeting specific types, a comparison study and modelling (chemometrics combined with in-line spectroscopic analysis) will be made by extracting polyphenols under various conditions. Life cycle analysis (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC) will assess the environmental and economic viability of the developed process to determine if there is truly a benefit to extracting polyphenols from wet or dry debarking residues versus the conventional method of treating the polluted debarking water and burning dry materials. The results from this project have the potential to be greatly beneficial to Slovene and European (through IPR management) forest-based industries using wet and dry debarking processes and their associated waste.



Bibliographical references, arising directly from the implementation of the project:


Financed by:

Research projects (co)funded by the Slovenian Research Agency.