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Tannin Sources and Extraction

The challenge consists in using tannins extracted from common European softwood species and to obtain similar results and applicable products as already obtained with mimosa and quebracho tannins. Namely, Spruce (Picea abies, middle and northern Europe), Radiata Pine (Pinus radiata, northern Spain) and Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster, southern France) have all been identified as a valuable sources of bark for condensed tannins. These species are of particular interest because they represent a large percentage of European forests and are already logged and producing bark as a co-product at mill gates, in particular saw mills and pulp mills. In these mills, bark is often used as a source of bioenergy to fuel the plant operations. However, if an economical, simple and environmental extraction method could be developped to first extract the tannins from the bark, the residual extracted bark could still be used for bioenergy generation, while high value materials, such as tannin foams could be produced from the collected tannins. The availability of the bark resources will be evaluated and bark supply chains will be designed. Furthermore the extraction of tannins from softwood bark will be optimized and the extraction technology will be transfered on an industrial scale.

Tannin Foam Chemistry and Technology

The chemistry and the formulations that are adequate to the specific tannin chemistry will be elaborated. The foam formation kinetics will be tailored through selection of the proper solvent and foaming agent so that a desirable cellular structure can be produced. As nanofillers have also shown potential to tailor the properties of synthetic foams, the ability to tailor structure and properties through nanofillers will open avenues for foam design for specific applications. Alongside these challenges other biomass by-products will be explored in the synthesis of tannin foams. For example glycerol, the major by-product of biodiesel can be oxidized into aldehydes which could be used as a coreactant for tannin foams and furfuryl alcohol, a bio-based by-product of ethanol, has also been successfully used in the preparation of tannin foams. The project will include fundamental understanding of foam kinetcs and structure/property relationships. Furthermore the feasibility of tannin foams for gasification into tar-free synthesis gas will be examined in order to investigate possible energetic use of tannin insulating foams at ther enf of life.

Sustainability and Techno-Economic Potential

A life cycle analysis will be performed for tannin-based foams using various scenarios of the technology and chain supplies. Besides the environmental performance also a techno-economical study for the new technology and the bark/tannin supply chains as well as a study on market potentials will be conducted. The collected data and the investigated scenarios will help to define the most competitive technologies and chain supplies for European tannin foams based on sustainability and techno-economic criteria.

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