What we do

SPOT team covers three research lines and a pilot facility

  • Sourcing & dissolution 
  • Depolymerization & fractionation 
  • Chemical modification, biopolymer design and synthesis 
  • Upscaling (Pilot)

Specific goals

  • Lignin oils as renewable building block
  • Chemical recycling of Plastics using dissolution/solvents and catalytic depolymerization
  • Design and development of polymers using lignin (oils) and biobased/circular carbon
  • Development of polymer additives using lignin (oils), and circular carbon
  • Design to recycle: thermosets for recycling

Ongoing projects


  • FermiChem: Empower Green Chemistry Workforce by Fermentation. The goal of FermiChem is to build a co-creative training-research infrastructure in green chemistry. FermiChem will cover techniques to produce biobased chemicals as well as the downstream product formulation process with green chemistry method. As a starting point, we will use one of the modern technologies, precision fermentation, as the entry to set up the framework. The perspective of the project is to create a long-term supply scheme to support an agile and resilient labor market in green chemistry. (2023-2026)
  • Countless: The overall goal of Countless CBE funded EU project is to demonstrate the cost-effective and environmentally sustainable production of novel dedicated lignin-based platform chemicals, in an industrially relevant environment (TRL 7), via the use of a catalytic hydrogenolysis technology to convert isolated lignin into platform chemicals for several applications in the construction industry and cosmetics sector. This project is formed by 12 key partners covering the whole value chain including feedstock suppliers, technology development experts, well-recognized industry players in the respective application fields, experts in dissemination, communication and exploitation, and experts in integrated sustainability, environmental, and techno-economic assessments (2023 – 2027).
  • Bio-Cappp: Interreg project BIO-CAPPP – Biorizon Center for Applications & Products with Premium Properties funded by Interreg Vlaanderen-Nederland (Interreg VI), aims at the realisation of an application centre for the development of biobased applications. The center is an ecosystem where students and SMEs/startups can develop easily and together. The Biorizon application centre is the vehicle to: (1) stimulate the bioaromatics martket, and develop new, cross-sectoral value chains for application development; (2) cocreate and initiate application development trajectories with SME’s and startups, for which innovation vouchers will be available, and (3) reach syngery and collaboration in the triple Helix (Knowledge institutes, industry and government). The consortium consists of 6 partners, i.e., VITO as coordinator, with 2 additional Flemish partners Centexbel and Kamp C, next to the Dutch partners Avans Hogeschool, Green Chemistry Campus and TNO (2023 -2026).


  • UPSTREAM: UPSTREAM delivers Circular and Bio-Based Solutions for the Ultimate Prevention of Plastics in Rivers Integrated with Elimination And Monitoring Technologies. It aims to overcome challenges related to the monitoring, prevention, elimination, and valorisation of litter (L), plastics (P), and microplastics (MP). Demonstrating a suite of 14 solutions addressing pollution at every step in the water system, connected to 7 rivers in 5 countries, will enable the co-creation of an extensive database of knowledge and sustainable business models with a focus on making information as widely accessible as possible. The involvement of wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) owners, industrial partners with existing supply chains, innovative SMEs, and a water cluster association will ensure exploitation of the project solutions. The UPSTREAM consortium will thus establish circular value chains with the potential to decrease plastic litter by 50% and MP pollution by 30%. (2023-2027).

  • DigiLignin: Digitalization tools are expected to speed-up PU systems design with respect to properties and processes. To do so, structure-property relations and process models must be developed from theory rather than extensive experimentation. The DigiLignin project addresses these challenges of lignin-based PU design by creating a model that could predict the structure-property relationships via a combined Machine Learning (ML) and quantum mechanical (QM) modelling approach. This ML-QM model will be considered as a robust digital building block to facilitate and speed-up the design of lignin-PU.  Overall, DigiLignin promises to rationalize the design of lignin-PU and to accelerate the commercialization of more sustainable materials with lower carbon footprints. In the future, the predictive model could be extended and shared via user-friendly apps with PU users for a wide range of applications. DIGILIGNIN is a FWO project, awarded the Bioeconomy Label by Vlaio, where VITO, UHasselt and Maatsricht University closely work together (2023-2024).

  • CHRONICLE:  Develop a novel chemical recycling approach to process rigid polyurethane (PU) and polyisocyanurate (PIR) end-of-life materials. By using selective depolymerization, we will transform these wastes into valuable building blocks to produce more sustainable materials, guaranteeing in this way a high carbon circularity. To secure the sustainability of the new technological route, CHRONICLE will also have a strong value chain management supported by techno-economic and life cycle assessment. CHRONICLE will link waste providers and recyclers, with downstream chemical companies and PU producers, resulting in an optimized value chain with enhanced circularity, new economic opportunities and new synergetic partnerships. CHRONICE is a part of the Moonshot program, where VITO, KUL and UA join forces. (2023-2027).

  • FIREFLY: The FIREFLY project is the pioneering research initiative set off to drive the catalyst-based chemical industry towards electrification and to reduce external reliance on metals and fossil fuels. The current production of metal-based catalysts relies mainly on procedures that are not sustainable, as they intensively consume chemicals and non-renewable energy, under harsh operating conditions. The FIREFLY concept uses electricity issued from RES to manufacture (electro)catalysts from secondary resources, in a new sustainable approach that will significantly reduce production costs. The initiative continues the path to circularity, introducing more profitable routes for the chemical industry by using mainly spent, waste, and off-specifications catalysts from different industrial applications, including lignin depolymerization (2023-2027).

  • PROMIS: PROMIS will help the chemicals and materials industries in the production of more sustainable polyurethanes (PUs). Using inventive organic chemistry and catalysis, novel bio-based PU building blocks, called isocyanates, will be designed. As a result, current challenges in polyurethane industry will be addressed through closely interlinked valorisation goals. Currently, commercially available isocyanates originate from petroleum resources and are thus non-renewable. To replace these petrochemical isocyanates, PROMIS will investigate the design of new or “lookalike” bio-based isocyanates originating from biomass sources. Their molecular structure and chemical reactivity will be compared to the commercial benchmarks, identifying their potential as drop-ins or superior substitutes. PROMIS aims at the production of these new bio-based structures with distinct reactivities and/or extra beneficial properties (e.g. oxidative & UV stability and/or reduced (eco)toxicity). PROMIS is an intercluster SBO, awarded the Bioeconomy Label by Vlaio, where VITO, KUL and UA join forces  (2023-2025).
  • Bioseal: Biobased MS polymers for industrial applications. MS-polymers are ready for transition to biobased development, that is the challenge and innovation for this project. Kaneka together with VITO continue their collaboration to ensure a new generation of MS polymers with outstanding performance and ready for future sustainable use with lower environmental footprint. (2022-2025).
  • DELICARE: DEpolymerisation of hydrolysis LIgnin for Conversion to Acrylic REsins. The DELICARE project maximally exploits the potential of hydrolysis lignin (HL) as a sustainable source of reactive bio-aromatic compounds. Using a catalytic depolymerization we target  applications in acrylic resins. DELICARE will link upstream HL producers and downstream acrylic resins and polymer stakeholders, resulting in an optimized value chain, new economic opportunities and  new synergetic partnerships. (2023-2025).
  • CYCLOPS: Chemical recYCLing of Oxygenated Polymer materialS. The overall project objective is to develop a ground-breaking process to recycle oxygenated waste polymers, in particular PC (polycarbonates), epoxy resins (polyethers) and PET (polyesters), along with some of their blends (e.g., PC/PET, PC/ABS, PET/PE) into high added value diols and polyols for repolymerization into novel epoxy resins with improved recyclability. (2022-2026).
  • Life Viable: Valorisation of lignin bIomass into competitive components grAdually replacing BPA in the formuLation of Epoxy resins. The overall objective of the project is to demonstrate technical and economic feasibility of the use of lignin as raw material to produce epoxy-resins for applications in the field of composites for car components. (2021-2025).
  • BBI Lignicoat: Sustainable COATings based on LIGNIn resins and bio-additives with improved fire, corrosion and biological resistance. The overall objective of the project is to demonstrate technical and economic feasibility of the use of lignin as raw material to produce bio-resins for different applications in the field of functional coatings. (2021-2024).
  • Remove2reclaim: Dissolution based chemical recycling of pigmented plastics. Innovative ways of separating TiO2 from polymer dissolution media, incl. membrane filtration. Recovery/purification of polymer, additive and/or solvent. (2020-2023).
  • BBI selectiveli: polymer design and synthesis for epoxy resins using the lignosulfonate-derived phenolic compounds and aldehydes as alternatives replacing their oil-derived precursors up to the maximum possible level. (2019-2023).
  • Lignocost:  The main main objective of LignoCOST is to establish a sound network covering the entire value chain in which relevant information can be produced with a focus on lignin valorisation towards sustainable industrial applications. Only when working together this information can be gathered to cover the technical, non-technical, environmental and socio-economic implications of the most promising lignin value chains. VITO is working group leader on the industrial relevant applications from lignin. (2018-2023).

  • Pillar II: Unique PILot infrastructure for innovative catalytic biorefinery of Lignocellulosic material to functional bio-ARomatics. Design and construction of the feed dissolver unit (lignin and wood) for the catalytic depolymerization Lignovalue pilot to deliver up to 240 kg/day bioaromatic oil. (2020-2022). 
  • BIORESAL: BIO-based RESins from Aldehydes and Lignin. Characterization of lignin and derived fractions, fractionation and modification to synthesize phenol substitutes for biobased LFP resins. (2019-2022).
  • Fully closed cycle for re- and upcycling of used polymers: Development of a solubility model for additives from PE, PP. Polymer cycle: Recovering intact polymer chain with minimal degradation allowing re-use (2019-2022).
  • NIBCON: Novel Integrated Biorefinery Concepts for a Carbon Neutral Bio-Economy. Development of a solubility model for lignin and its catalytic depolymerization. Development of a separation model, including membranes to assess the best separation train for a specific fraction. Techno-economic assessment of the separation train. (2020-2021).
  • OPZuid: OPZuid is focused on the further development of an interregional campus eco-system and accompanying key-infrastructure for the conversion of biomass residues to crude lignin oil (CLO) and CLO derived polyurethane and phenol. (2019-2021).
  • Doing more with Lignin: Doing more with lignin aims to upscale a process for isolation of lignin from biomass residual streams for use in the chemical industry. Characterize the lignin based fractions. Design and develop Polyurethanes using lignins and its fractions. Study impact of impurties on PU properties. Material characterization and mapping potential for adhesives. (2019-2021).
  • BioWood: A new value chain for the Flemish bio-economy through inventive wood refining towards highly valuable agro-industrial chemicals. Simulation of resource evolution until 2050 (WP1). Production of Xylo-oligosaccharides based on carbohydrate pulp by using new bioreactor concepts (WP3). Environmental toxicity of the envisioned agro-industrial applications (WP3). Sector level analysis: development and application of MooV to design the best wood-based value chain in Flanders (WP4). (2018-2021).
  • Cambium: Bio-Aromatics-Containing Macromolecular Materials for Industrial Uses. (2018-2021).
  • Lignovalue Pilot: A pilot facility for lignin/wood depolymerization into innovative, biobased aromatics in Flanders. VITO owns, coordinates and defines the technology class of catalytic processes to depolymerize lignin and lignocellulosic biomass into bioaromatics using organic solvents. (2018-2021).
  • LigninOx: Lignin Oxidation technology for versatile lignin dispersants. Post-treatment of oxidized lignin using membrane filtration, targeting enhanced plasticizer performance, improved applicability and recovery of process chemicals. Design and pilot scale demonstration of integrated membrane processes tailored  to various oxidized lignin types, considered essential for techno-economic feasibility of overall LigniOx technology. (2017-2021).

Strategic collaborations