Beyond Combustion: Additional Value for the Sunflower Husks

Some years ago when we first investigated the use of sunflower husks, we found oil mills that paid for them to be taken away ..

.. and they used coal to generate the process steam. Since then, husks are often used to fuel the steam boilers. However, there is always an excess of husks. Some oil mills pelletise and export them. DalinYebo has done extensive work with sunflower husks as part of IFT's furfural process developments. We have found that sunflower husks are indeed a suitable feedstock for furfural production. It was used in one of the USSR biorefineries (hydrolysers) as feedstock to make furfural.

Once the furfural is extracted, the remaining lignocellulosic residue can either be pelletised or further processed, as it has many value-added uses.

Furfural production adds value to sunflower husks, beyond combustion. Although its pentosan content is lower than that of corncobs, it has many advantages: Generally it is available at a central location 24/7 for 365 days per year (oil mills have large seed storage), it is dry and handles beautifully.

Background Information

Refer to our "Furfural from Sunflower Husks" article for additional information and/or to download the background information document, which includes:

An economic evaluation, with and without CHP (see "Furfural & CHP") integration

A market outline 


About Biomass & Furfural

For owners of biomass we offer technology and market access, creating investment opportunities in the cleantech space. Contact us to discuss the potential your biomass has for the production of furfural.

For the agri (Biomass) processing, sugar, pulp&paper, etc. industries, we provide knowhow and technology to convert (residual) biomass to chemicals and energy.

This article is part of a series on "biomass for furfural" production, which provides our clients with updates and analysis on the fundamentals and competitiveness of a variety of feedstock and their conversion to chemicals and energy (incl. biofuels).

  • Biomass
  • Biomass
  • Furfural
  • sunflower husks
  • GreenEnergyPark™
  • Green Electricity...
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Synthesis of Furfural: Well established in some aspects, but yet to be fully unravelled!

Despite the the fact that furfural was discovered in 1832, Gianluca and his co-authors found that ..

there is still much to be discovered, especially with regard to the complex set of side and loss reactions seemingly involving largely unknown reaction intermediates.

In the January 2014 issue, Green Chemistry presents a critical review of "both the mechanistic and kinetic aspects of furfural formation from pentoses in aqueous acidic media have been reviewed. Based on the reviewed literature, a comprehensive reaction mechanism has been proposed consisting of more than one route, all starting from acyclic xylose, and involving alternately 1,2-enolization, β-elimination or isomerization via 1,2-hydride shift as key steps".


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  • Furfural
  • catalysis
  • gianluca...
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Furfural as feedstock for PET alternatives.

Bio-renewable PEF (polyethylene furanoate) is an alternate and green plastic for soft drink bottles.

Pepsi was the first, but Coca Cola and Danone are also developing/introducing PEF bottles. PEF is made from ethylene glycol and FDCA (furan-2,5-dicarboxylic acid). As with most furfural derivatives, the chemistry is very old (and forgotten?): FDCA was first obtained in 1876 and is derived from furoic acid, which was first described in 1780. FDCA is one of 12 priority chemicals for establishing the “green” chemistry industry of the future, according to the US Department of Energy. 

Furoic acid is made from furfural, which is not rocket science to produce. It has been commercially produced since 1922 and is readily available.

Although there are still technical hurdles to overcome, there are also chemical pathways being developed to commercially produce FDCA from HMF, which is derived from fructose (of saccharified cellulose). Viable options (case studies/models) are suggested in a recently published report [2][3]. Other researchers of microbial metabolism of furanic compounds found that furfural and HMF degradation pathways converge at the level of 2-furoic acid [4].

Why Furfural?

Because it is already commercially made! Therefore, furfural should be the obvious choice as a platform chemical for alternatives to PET or other polymers. Furfural production no longer requires (costly) pilot plants, nor does it have to wait for the eventual construction of the next-generation biorefineries. Most importantly, furfural can be produced from a variety of biomass sources and its production can also be integrated into existing (e.g. sugar) and new agri-processing or bio-mass conversion (e.g. pulp) industries. Furfural production is also well suited to small scale biomass processors (micro-BioRefiners), i.e. in proximity of the biomass supply. Therefore, investments into furfural production can have a direct social-economic impact in creating new green rural jobs, now.  It's an investment into a US$5 billion business, a renaissance of a bio-renwable chemistry that goes beyond green "PET" soda bottles.

Low Cost IP Development

Since 1998, the DalinYebo team has successfully develop and commercialised IP in the furfural industry. Besides the perceived secretiveness of the business, ...

... the biggest revelation for us was the fact that with relatively low development budgets, massive gains can be and are still to be made.

For many biorefiners, furfural is a problem or impurity that has to be removed. The hemicellulose is an integral part of the biomass and likewise our business model and approach to its conversion to furfural is integrated with the biomass processing:

1. We believe that many of the so-called "next generation bio-refining" processes can be adopted in a such a way that the removal of the furfural follows a "more or less" conventional process. Our Trade-Secrets are designed to enable collaborators to create new IP for own use or for licensing. The benefit is (a) a faster and lower-cost process development phase that integrates proven or known technology, which means that (b) investors can go and see "similar" plants that make use of selected unit-processes. Basically, furfural removal is a (paid for) pre-treatment stage of a bio-refinery and the resulting ligoncellulose can be use for the production of C6-molecule based chemicals/fuels or used as fuel for a CHP station. The reason we say "more or less" and "similar": DalinYebo has overhauled and modernised the 1922 process in the way we integrate its mass and energy balance into other processes (e.g. bio-refinery, sugar or pulp mill), so it will look the same, but perform differently. 

In a sense we do to furfural production what AMG does to a Mercedes Benz.

2. Should there be a proprietary process already that contains furfural in the process stream, DalinYebo certainly have the knowhow to assist in figuring out how to remove and commercialise the furfural. We are available to render our services on a consulting basis or find other commercial collaborations that will be of mutual benefit. The roots of our team's knowhow are anchored in sugar milling, pulp & paper, ethanol and chemical production.


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[1] B. Kamm, M. Kamm. M. Schmidt, T. Hirth and M. Schulze, Biorefineries – Industrial Processes and Products, ed. B. Kamm, P.R. Gruber and M. Kamm, Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim, Germany, 2006, vol. 2, ch. 3, pp. 97-149.

[2] A. Eerhart, W. J.J. Huijgen, R. J.H. Grisel, J. C. van der Waal, E. de Jong, A. de Sousa Dias, A. Faaij and M. K. Patel, RSC Adv., 2013, DOI: 10.1039/C3RA43512A.

[3] CATalytic conversion of lignocellulose by an organosolv process into FURan derivatives (CATFUR) is part of the EOS Long Term Energy Research Strategy and is funded by a division of the Dutch Ministry of Economics Affairs.

[4] N. Wierckx, F. Koopman, H.J. Ruijssenaars and J.H. de Winde, Microbial degradation of furanic compounds: biochemistry, genetics, and impact, Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2011 December; 92(6): 1095–1105.

  • Furfural
  • PET
  • Bioplastics
  • Furoic Acid
  • FDCA
  • Furfural and its many Byproducts...
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Derived from Furfural and Brown Algae

A visible light-curable polysaccharide conjugate was prepared and was included with epidermal growth factor (EGF) for wound healing application[1]. Alginate was modified with furfurylamine, and the furfuryl alginate (F-alginate) was mixed with Rose Bengal for visible light reactivity.

Furfurylamine is synthesized from furfural

Alginate, is an anionic polysaccharide distributed widely in the cell walls of brown algae.

In conclusion, it was demonstrated that the system was useful for wound healing.


[1] Journal of Applied Polymer Science

  • bioengineering
  • Furfural
  • algea
  • pharmaceutical...
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Important chemicals for the production of biomass-based monomers

Furfural, which is made form biomass, was used to showcase the synthesis[1] of alternatives to petro-chemical derived polymers (polyesters). These products are identical to their petro-chemical equivalents and can be use to as drop-in substitute to manufacture bio-renewable plastics.

The above tag-cloud represents an analysis of the reference article's abstract.

Also see:

New Green Materials

Bioplastics and Furfural

Furfural and its many By-product


[1] Synthesis of Biomass-Based Monomers from Biomass-Based Furfural for Polyesters and Evaluation of Their Biomass Carbon Ratios

  • Furfural
  • Furfural and its many Byproducts
  • Bioplastics
  • Biorenewable Chemicals
  • polyesters...
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