Technological Centre

CETIM demonstrates the innovative potential of the wood biorefinery with more than €40M of investment mobilized in a dozen verified application

CETIM Technological Centre has developed a dozen industrial applications from wood by-products for elements as varied as foam for car seats, cleaning products or Li-ion batteries.

In direct collaboration with fifty companies, it has been offering advanced solutions in circular economy for a decade through biorefinery models and R&D&i from lignin, cellulose or hemicellulose, generating more than €40M of investment.

The “green asphalt” devised by CETIM, additive with nanocellulose, won last November the 1st Innovative Materials Contest of the GAIN (Galician Innovation Agency) of the Xunta de Galicia.

CETIM researchers working with lignin.

Polyurethane foams for car seats, cleaning products, insulating panels for construction, additives for pipes, stabilizers for forest soils, sustainable asphalt mixtures, fabrics based on textile fibers from natural sources, nanocomposites for high energy density batteries or biocomposites in lignocellulosic materials for application in Li-ion battery anodes,…

These ten new industrial applications for such diverse sectors have a common link. All include wood derivatives in their composition to offer a more sustainable alternative to their conventional version and improve their performance through advanced circular economy solutions. As an added value, each research is carried out on a pilot scale to optimize it and validate its viability on an industrial scale.

As the UN pointed out on the occasion of World Wood Day, celebrated on March 21st, “it’s vital to consume and produce wood in a more environmentally friendly way, for the planet and its inhabitants. Especially considering that it’s an easily renewable resource if we carry out sustainable management of forests”. CETIM has been following this path for a decade now.

Since its foundation, the technological centre has committed to research oriented towards natural and sustainable materials, accumulating extensive knowledge in wood chemistry through the application of biorefinery models and R&D&i based on lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose.

Its objective is to provide the market with high value-added biosolutions such as nanofibers, surfactants, coatings, biopolymers, additives, paper, plasticizers or forest soil stabilizers,… all obtained from the valorization of wood derivatives.

More than €40M of total investment mobilized and the direct collaboration in R&D&i projects of fifty companies of all sizes, from SMEs to large corporations, support this strategic commitment.

In fact, the idea of the Emulcell project “Cold bituminous mixes additivated with nanocellulose” (biopaving alternative to conventional asphalt), winner of the 1st GAIN Innovative Materials Contest, arose from the knowledge accumulated by CETIM in lignocellulosic and sustainable construction materials.

Lines of research
In order to get the most out of wood by-products and residues, CETIM collaborates directly with industries in the forestry and wood sector in Galicia and Spain to optimize their processes and commercial products.

One of the research lines focuses on the study of physical-chemical and biotechnological pretreatments for wood chips and shredded wood to improve the processing and quality of the final product. Likewise, they also focus on reusing the sub-currents of industrial processes and residues.

On the other hand, with the aim of improving the performance of wood-based products, CETIM researchers carry out studies on coatings, flame retardants, formaldehyde binders, etc. for boards and other products, as well as tests of mechanical resistance, fire resistance or accelerated aging and corrosion, among others.

Hand in hand with the industry, it has also been able to innovate in the digitization of the sector by implementing digital twins and blockchain. The first is designed for the monitoring of facilities, processes and analysis of forest biomass. Blockchain technology is applied in the securitization and integral traceability of the wood supply chain and the obtaining of FSC and PEFC certified paper, ecological or proximity products.

Protecting carbon sinks
Since 2013, every March 21, World Wood Day is celebrated coinciding with the International Day of Forests. The theme chosen this year by the UN (United Nations) is “Forests: sustainable consumption and production”, aligned with SDG 12 Sustainable consumption and production of the 2030 Agenda.

In general, the aim of this environmental event is, on the one hand, to highlight the value of this natural resource as an ecological and renewable biomaterial. On the other hand, to make the population aware of the key role played by wood through biodiversity and forests conservation, one of the lungs of the Planet, which is essential to mitigate climate change due to its ability to absorb CO2.