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GREENIFYING the CHEMICAL INDUSTRY

Discover a new technology that sources petrochemicals from sunlight and biomass

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 948829).

PROBLEM

Our strong reliance on fossil resources is altering the environment at a pace never seen before

Today, roughly 86% of the energy supply and 96% of the organic chemicals rely on fossil resources. While renewable energies are showing a great penetrating rate in the economic fabric, sourcing petrochemicals at a global scale from non-fossil resources remains as an insurmountable challenge to meet the long-sought Green Transition. The mining, transport and refining operations are negatively impacting the global environment due, to a large extent, to their massive carbon footprint. Therefore, enabling a sustainable source of petrochemicals is instrumental to secure the energy transition.

MISSION

We are changing the way petrochemicals are made

When we look around and try to find an alternative source for petrochemicals at a large scale, there is one candidate that stands out: the lignocellulosic biomass, or in other words, the agricultural and forestry residues. Today’s technology has perfected routes to obtain “bio-fuels” and added-value chemicals from the carbohydrate fraction of this resource, but still lacks the tools to tap into the other fraction, the so-called lignin. This one is very important because its chemical composition is unique, it is made of aromatics, which are crucial building blocks for a wide variety of petrochemicals that are used to produce plastics, pharmaceuticals, or chemical commodities. So, our mission here is simple but challenging, i.e., to establish new approaches to disassemble lignin into its aromatic units while lying the grounds for a new generation of biorefineries.

RELICS project

Upcycling lignin using nanomachines powered by sunlight

Within the EU funded project “Refining Lignin by Advanced Catalytic Schemes Powered by Sunlight” (RELICS) we pursue to manufacture a new generation of photocatalysts with enhanced activity towards the fragmentation of lignin into its aromatics constituents.

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WHY RELICS

An environmentally friendly and low-cost technology for lignin valorization

While there exist several thermocatalytic routes with great potential for the valorization of lignin, these approaches still rely on energy-intensive processes, and often, the harsh conditions required tend to irreversibly alter the aromatics reducing their value. RELICS proposes an alternative approach based on photocatalysts specifically programmed to only break the bridges that link the aromatic units and release the high value platform chemicals that are currently demanded by the industry. Using solely sunlight to power the process at ambient conditions, the RELICS concept holds the promise to cut down infrastructure costs and facilitate decentralization of biorefineries.

RELICS In Numbers

4

EMPLOYEES

1.5M$

CAPITAL

4

COLLABORATORS

COLLABORATORS

Our Partners

Several international groups are  involved in RELICS contributing to design new catalytic materials and to better understand the  mechanisms whereby the lignin fragmentation takes place.

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UNIVERSITY OF ALICANTE

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SOUTH CHINA UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

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NANKAI UNIVERSITY

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UNIVERSITY OF BERN

CAREERS

We’re looking for ambitious and talented individuals to join our team. See all positions and submit your CV.

Junior Researcher (prospective PhD student)

Alicante (Spain)

We are looking for ambitious young researchers passionate about electrochemistry and solar energy conversion to join the team.

Tel: + 34 965903400 (Ext. 1208)

e-mail: nestor.guijarro@ua.es

             contact@erc-relics.eu

Dr. Néstor Guijarro Carratala

ASSET Lab

Instituto Universitario de Electroquímica

Universidad de Alicante
Parque científico-Institutos universitarios (Zona ampliación del Campus)
Carretera de San Vicente del Raspeig, s/n.
03690 - San Vicente del Raspeig (Alicante)

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 948829).

© 2022. Nestor Guijarro

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