Startup Vertichem has received $3 million in capital-market funding. The company will use the investment to work on commercializing its process of using woody biomass to produce high-value specialty chemicals.
Vertichem creates three specialty chemicals from hardwood chips: lignin, xylose and cellulose. In January, Vertichem was awarded a US patent for its gentle, integrated processing of plant biomass. The patent applies to three related but distinct processing stages at the core of Vertichem’s business, including: the extraction of high quality lignin from woody plant material; the production of xylose from the hemicelluloses; and the efficient hydrolysis of cellulose present in plant material to form glucose, which is then fermented to produce ethanol.
Lignin is found in all plant biomass, and constitutes a vast source of “green chemical” feedstock, which can substitute for many petrochemical resources. With its natural polyphenolic structures, lignin is a highly valuable chemical suitable for the production of a multitude of green chemical products, including adhesives, paints and coating resins as well as a variety of natural and synthetic plastic composites materials, according to Vertichem.
Lignin is also a polyol—i.e.., it has many hydroxyl subgroups making it easy to react with many polymers and chemical agents such as methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) for the manufacture of polyurethane.
Vertichem has developed a process that produces in a single step a lignin that is highly purified and functional, making it directly usable as a green chemical feedstock in many processes without further processing or upgrading. Because of its functionality, purity and homogeneity, Vertichem’s lignin may also be derivatized to become an ideal substrate for a wide range of downstream applications.