Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems

γ-valerolactone biorefinery

γ-valerolactone pulping is a novel organic solvent fractionation process developed by Professor Herbert Sixta’s Biorefineries research group.
GVL biorefinery Photo: Aalto University / Anni Hanén

Since 2014, a novel organic solvent fractionation process has been developed by Professor Herbert Sixta’s Biorefineries research group at Aalto University.

γ-valerolactone (GVL) has been identified as an efficient reaction medium for the fractionation of lignocellulose into its polymeric components. GVL is a low hazard, chemically stable and environmentally benign lignin solvent which can be synthesized from pentoses or hexoses. The extent of hemicellulose separation can be adjusted by altering the GVL concentration in the fractionation liquor. By the GVL/water fractionation, hardwood biomass can be converted into paper-grade or dissolving pulps with properties equivalent to the corresponding commercial pulps. The lignin fraction can be isolated from the spent liquor in the form of sulfur-free, sugar-lean low and medium molecular weight lignin of high reactivity. The hemicellulose fraction are retained as water soluble mono- or oligosaccharides as well as converted to degradation products such as furanic compounds and low-molecular weight carboxylic acids.

The project was originally funded by Aalto School of Chemical Technology and Finnish Bioeconomy Cluster Oy (FIBIC) via the Advanced Cellulose to Novel Products (ACel) research program. The project continuation is part of CERES and supported by Stora Enso.

Contact information

Herbert Sixta
Professor, Head of the Department
[email protected]

Team members

  • Huy Quang Lê (PhD student)
  • Marianna Granatier (PhD student)
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