New ways of using sugar beet biomass

Which application opportunities for the cosmetics, food and chemical industry are offered by the new glycolisation technology developed by the EU project CARBAFIN? In an interview, Christiane Luley from acib GmbH provides first insights and invites EFIB attendees to take part in the free pre-conference workshop on 5th October.


1) Within the CARBAFIN project the partners have developed a radically new value chain utilization of sucrose from sugar beet biomass. Can you provide some details on the glycosylation technology used and the partners involved?

CARBAFIN offers an innovative use of sugar beet biomass and therefore helps the sugar industries and their allied partners to address the current challenge of reduced sugar beet demand in Europe. This decrease was caused by the fall of the sugar quota in 2017 and subsequent changes in market regulations.

To counteract, CARBAFIN developed new ways for the utilization of sugar beet biomass and proposes a two-platform biocatalytic conversion (“biorefinery”). The academic partners at acib, University of Ghent and Graz University of Technology are working with specific enzymes, glycoside phosphorylases, which convert the glucose part of sucrose into innovative functional glucosides (platform 1). These glucosides are interesting components for cosmetics and food industry, and have been evaluated by industrial partners bitop AG and Pfeifer & Langen, respectively. In parallel, the fructose part of sucrose is exploited as substrate for production of HMF, which is happening at AVA Biochem. HMF is a platform chemical for the bio-based economy (platform 2).

This two-platform biocatalytic conversion is fully integrated with efficient downstream processing (DSP) methods, which ensures economic viability of the proposed value chains. GALAB Laboratories and acib are cooperating on this part.

2) Which product examples have been developed with this approach?

Within CARBAFIN, three different product streams have been followed: glucosylglycerol (GG), cellodextrins and fructose for HMF production. GG is a functional glucoside that stimulates cell renewal, has an antiaging effect and reduces sunburns. It represents an attractive alternative to current moisturizing components in cosmetic products. Furthermore, GG has an antioxidant effect that makes it relevant for applications as a prebiotic in food. The same is true for cellodextrins – CARBAFIN has developed an enzymatic cascade approach for the production of cellodextrins that are promising prebiotics for food industry as well. Last but not least, the idea of making use of the fructose “waste” stream from GG production is an innovative new approach for bulk chemistry, for example for the production of platform chemical HMF. CARBAFIN has evaluated this approach and explored effective ways for pre-treatment of fructose for successful utilization.

3) For which industry sector it can be further explored and why it offers such a high potential for further use?

There is an urgent demand for novel cosmetic and food ingredients that are derived from more sustainable processes and that have a lower carbon footprint. With respect to a more circular economy, CARBAFIN offers an efficient way to produce functional glucosides from sucrose AND – in parallel – makes use of the waste product fructose. The application field of components derived from these novel production routes is partly well explored and matured (GG), partly at an early stage (cellodextrins). However, experts expect a meaningful potential for different application fields in food, feed or also pharma industries. Furthermore, there is seen a substantial replication potential of CARBAFIN for various processes that require fructose as a substrate, being platform chemical HMF one of them. Coupling the fructose waste stream to HMF production, for example, outcompetes food grade fructose as a cheaper raw material. When thinking about the benefits of the CARBAFIN glycosylation technology and its suitability in different industry sectors, it can be concluded that it makes production processes greener and more ecological. During the EFIB pre-conference workshop on 5th October we will offer all interested stakeholders to discuss our results and future industrial application opportunities.

Interested in joining CARBFIN’s pre-conference workshop on 5th October from 14:30 to 17:30 CET for free?

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