Technical Services – 12 Pilot lines for process optimization and production up-scale
Production and functionalization of bio-based silica nanoparticles

BIOMAT-TB aims to produce and functionalise bio-based silica nanoparticles extracted from agro-industrial residues, such as cereal husks or straw. The particles are intended to have improved properties, such as hydrophobicity, antifungal/antimicrobial and flame retardancy, and can be used as bio-based foam components.

This technological innovation allows the manufacturing of PUR products with more sustainable formulations and improved nano-enabled reinforcing agents.

Functionalization of lignocellulosic materials

One of the services provided by BIOMAT-TB is the transformation and functionalisation of lignocellulosic materials obtained from agro and forest-based sources using a novel and environmentally safe chemo-enzymatic process.

The obtained materials present enhanced reactivity suitable for their formulation as adhesives and internal adhesion promoters for insulation foams, fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) nanocomposites and sandwich structures. They are a sustainable alternative to the broadly used petroleum-based adhesives while maintaining comparable performance.

Existing in-house processes can be adapted and optimised to the customer’s needs, and the developed products are characterised and validated using the premises of the technology provider.

Nanoformulation of adhesion promoters

Nanoformulation of adhesion promoters is also available at BIOMAT-TB. Lignocellulosic adhesion promoters, such as lignin nanoparticles, serve as nucleation precursors for self-assembling bio-based PUR foams and FRP nanocomposites.

The nanoformulation of adhesion promoters is carried out by a simple one-step sonochemical process, yielding lignin nanoparticles with enhanced hydrophobicity and improved dispersibility within resin or foam matrices.

The biotechnical functionalisation of lignocellulosic and their sonochemical nanoformulation can be performed simultaneously in an innovative continuous sono-enzymatic process with decreased processing time compared to current batch processes.

Existing in-house processes can be adapted and optimised to the customer’s needs, and the developed products are characterised and validated using the premises of the technology provider.

Production of Modified Cellulose NanoCrystals (MCNC)

BIOMAT-TB can produce Modified Cellulose NanoCrystals (MCNCs) to be used as an additive to improve the properties of bio-based PUR foams. Naturally hydrophilic CNC is modified to improve its hydrophobicity and facilitate its integration into non-aqueous systems such as hydrophobic coatings and thermoplastic polymers. The characteristics of the MCNC can be tuned according to the requirements of the different systems.

This approach can enhance the rigidity, porosity, permeability characteristics, and other functionalities of the composite material.

Functionalization of Crystalline Nano-Cellulose (CNC) and silica nanoparticles with biobased polyol for polyurethane foam composites

With new technology, BIOMAT-TB can produce functionalised bio-based nanofillers from Cellulose NanoCrystals (CNC) and silica nanoparticles grafted with bio-based polyols to prepare PUR foams, resins and composites.

These modifications not only improve the affinity of the bio-nanofillers to the final matrices but also avoid releasing the nanofillers from the products, reducing their effect on the environment.

BIOMAT-TB can test the production of cellulose and silica functionalised with different bio-based polyols with specific properties providing new, additional functionalities to the bio-based foams such as tailored morphology, heat and noise insulation capacity, hydro and oleophobicity, wear resistance, thermal and mechanical stability, durability, bio-corrosion and fungal resistance.

Production of polyurethane foam panels

European SMEs may benefit from BIOMAT’s two different hybrid technologies/pilots (Pilot plant H1 and H2) to produce composite polyurethane foam panels (with a high amount of filler). 

Pilot plant H1 is based on the combination of an “extruder” coupled with a PUR-related low-pressure foaming technology and a specific mould to produce polyurethane foam panels, rigid and flexible, for several applications. 

Pilot plant H2 consists of a main unit based on conventional block polyurethane equipment with two metering units, a hopper for loading powders and a suitable mixing chamber to mix high amounts of filler powder with liquid phases.

Both technologies allow the incorporation of the following:
- Higher amounts of filler(s) of different typologies;
- Increased mechanical, thermal insulation and fire resistance properties with low density for the construction sector;
- High density and improved fire and UV resistance properties for the automotive industry.

The process can be optimised for specific requests if needed.

Production of thermoset resin prepregs

BIOMAT-TB is able to produce thermoset resin prepregs consisting of thermoset resin films applied to woven technical textiles or non-woven carriers. The process can be scaled from the lab through to the pilot scale with support available to take the next step to production readiness. Examples might be: trialling new bio-based additives, bio-based resins or novel reinforcement types. In addition, BIOMAT-TB can produce laminates from the resulting prepreg materials (by compression moulding or vacuum consolidation) and characterise them using various testing and analytical equipment.

Development of bio-based, nano reinforced soft PUR-foam formulations

BIOMAT-TB can develop and upscale the production of bio-based, nano-reinforced soft PUR-foam formulations according to the customer specifications, alternative polyols and/or additives or run a variety of test series without a large loss of valuable raw materials. Besides, BIOMAT-TB can provide process development and/or optimisation for slabstock foaming by adjustment of manufacturing parameters such as production speed and processing conditions (metering and mixing speed, mixing time, metering output, etc.), allowing faster transferring of the optimised technology to real production conditions.

Density, porosity, air permeability, rigidity/flexibility, tear strength, flame and fatigue resistance, resilience, form stability, and antibacterial and antifungal activity are some of the crucial soft foam characteristics, which can be provided upon request by partners involved in BIOMAT-TB.

Microwave-assisted chemical and chemo-enzymatic recycling of bio-PUR-based composites

BIOMAT-TB is able to provide microwave-assisted chemical and chemo-enzymatic recycling of bio-PUR-based foams and composites. The recycling process was optimised to decompose various types of polymeric waste energy-efficiently. New sustainable materials can then be produced by incorporating recycled polymers in the formulation.

Formulation of bio-based polyols

BIOMAT-TB will assist SMEs in the formulation of bio-based polyols, considering their molecular weight distribution and viscosity. Then, the bio-based polyols to formulate sustainable PUR materials will be synthesised.

Development of bio-PUR aerogel materials

The Project will pilot scale the production of bio-PUR aerogel panels and provide their morphological, mechanical and thermal characterisation. The aerogels will be reinforced with agricultural waste sources or natural compounds to obtain promising mechanical properties, ultra-light density, high porosity and low thermal conductivity. They can be used as thermal and sound insulators for the building and construction, automotive and aerospace sectors.

Preparation of (nano) filled polyol/resin formulations

The preparation of nano-enabled polyols and resins formulations is one of BIOMAT’s Technical Services. BIOMAT-TB will transfer the processing conditions from the pilot to the industrial scale. The functionalities of the innovative resulting products will be tailored for the specific sector in terms of viscosity, processing temperature, filler(s) concentration, selection of blowing agents, shelf-life, etc. 

Business Support Services
Products Characterization

The Products Characterisation service targets the characterization of the bio-PUR foams functionalities, such as antibacterial, fire retardancy or sound absorption analysis, and properties like rigidity, porosity and permeability.

It also includes several methods for chemical, thermal and mechanical characterization of the foam components or the final products, such as Mass spectrometry (MS), Magnetic Resonance (MRI), XPS, X-Ray Diffraction, FIB, AFM, DLS, Z-potential, contact angle, and UV-Vis-NIR spectroscopy.

Development of sensors for in-line analysis of products based on NIR or UV spectroscopy in bioprocess & chemical process

This service to European SMEs will provide spectroscopic data enabling physical and chemical characterisation of the products/processes under production. Therefore, real-time validation of the product’s main critical quality attributes will be possible. These data can be exchanged using communication protocols such as OPC-UA or TCP/IP.

Evaluation of nanosafety and toxicity

BIOMAT-TB will evaluate the nanosafety and toxicity of bio-based PUR foams and their components to create optimised nanomaterials and nano-enabled products that are safe for the consumer. This assessment considers specific endpoints according to the expected exposure scenario, such as inhalation, skin and environmental exposure. Furthermore, the physical-chemical characterisation of nanomaterials, fluid screening toxicity in relevant biological and environmental contexts, and standard screening toxicity tests are provided.

Digital Twin Pilot (DTP)

Digital Twin Pilot is a Smart Digital Tool available on request at all technical services aiming to support manufacturing by:

- Monitoring, modelling and optimising processes;
- Providing the possibility to analyse the impact of parameters variation in the manufacturing performance;
- Exploring the innovative products that BIOMAT aims to deliver, facilitating the comparison between the existing ones with similar functional features.

Business Plan development

This service aims to deliver comprehensive reports to support the commercialisation and exploitation phase of the developed final products and innovative processes. BIOMAT-TB will support the development of the company’s Business Plan, providing a qualitative and quantitative market analysis that represents the turning point to evaluate the sector trends, potential customers, competing products, entry barriers and project attractiveness.

Furthermore, BIOMAT-TB will assist in developing a financial plan to perform direct/indirect accurate costs and profits estimations, considering the value chain structure, including data and information.

And ultimately, BIOMAT-TB will help define a commercial and communication strategy to support the launch into the marketplace.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC)

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) development service allows to evaluate and monitor the environmental impact of products and processes. Through comparative analysis, the service will support identifying the solution proving the desired functionality with a lower environmental footprint. The LCA provides information on effectiveness and sustainability for market applications by considering the environmental impact of the entire value chain. Indeed this analysis includes the upstream and downstream flows associated with the production: starting from the pre-production steps until final disposal. The LCA assessment facilitates the identification of production issues, supporting the implementation of more efficient planning and reliable data to develop more sustainable products and processes.

The Life Cycle Costing (LCC), in strict connection to LCA, allows considering all the costs incurred during the lifetime of the product, work or service, supporting the definition of the economic sustainability of the product/process and the business case development.

Legal and Intellectual Property Support

BIOMAT-TB provides Legal and Intellectual Property (IP) support in several aspects, such as:

- Patent analysis through a specific database;
- Analysis of the literature for prior art assessment, 
- Definition of the foreground of the company,
- Definition of Intellectual Property details concerning the partners/organisation’s participation in the innovation process;
- Definition of the best Intelectual Property Rights (IPR) protection strategy and definition of business model in relation to IP sharing (licensing, partnering, joint venture…);
- Report on IPR survey and business models.

Mentoring for funds raising

BIOMAT-TB provides mentoring for funds raising, covering:

1) Pitch deck - help with the preparation of a full deck and an elevator pitch that includes:
• Definition of the problem/the need;
• Solution outline;
• Company and vision;
• Market analysis;
• Go-to-market strategy;
• Business plan;
• Roadmap;
• Equity plan;
• Fundraising plan.

2) Explore fundraising opportunities:
• Non-diluting: grants, national funds, corporate impact activities, and others;
• Investments: VCs, angels, incubators/accelerators, crowdfunding, and others.

3) Hit the road - help with connection:
• Connect with potential investors;
• Help with pitch sessions.