Dr. Axel Funke and Ana Correa de Araujo from KIT on Lignin Fast Pyrolysis

By Hochschule Bremerhaven
Dr. Axel Funke (left) and Ana Correa de Araujo (right) at the fast pyrolysis process development unit (PYTHON) at the KIT.

“Axel and Ana, you are involved in the catalytic processing work package and are focusing on Lignin Fast Pyrolysis. So, let me ask you: When did you start your interest for this topic?”

I learned about the trouble encountered during processing of lignin at high temperatures and was intrigued how mechanical mixing induced by auger reactors helps mitigating problems. I gladly accepted the challenge to prove this technology for such a demanding feedstock!

“Ana what is the most surprising results during the last two and a half years?”

The most surprising result for me was the successful operation of the pilot scale fast pyrolysis unit using lignin as feedstock. After reading the literature on lignin pyrolysis and performing the first experiments using a lab scale fluidized bed, it was clear that the challenges regarding plugging and agglomeration issues were not small. But, fortunately, the mechanical forces associated with the twin-screw reactor were sufficient to overcome these problems.


“And Axel what result surprised you the most?”

To be honest I was not very convinced that fast pyrolysis was the best technology choice to process lignin. The results from the experiments did surprise me positively and I do see my concerns decreasing as the project commences.


“Can you describe why the FLEXI-GREEN FUELS topic is so important?”

We will need renewable carbon for hard to abate sectors even in a net zero CO2 emission society. The FLEXI-GREEN FUELS target products sustainable marine and aviation fuels do represent such hard to abate sectors, i.e. they are very difficult to electrify. I expect that biogenic carbon, especially from residues as is the case in the FLEXI-GREEN FUELS project, will play an important role to fulfil this need for renewable carbon in a sustainable and economically viable manner.


“What added value do you both expect from the project?”

I do see the need to valorise all by-products during biomass conversion – comparable to the effectiveness of classical fossil petroleum refineries. FLEXI-GREEN FUELS is an important step in that direction and an excellent opportunity to learn about the resulting complexity, constraints, and benefits of such an approach.


Thank you for the insights into your thoughts. One last question. “If you could wish for something for the project, what would it be?”

Continuation of the R&D work! New challenges were identified along the solutions we developed. Some of these challenges are even unforeseen consequence of these solutions. I am keen on getting the chance to investigate them in more detail and how they affect the outcome of this project.

Dr. Axel Funke

Team leader at Karslruher Institute of Technology

Ana Correa de Araujo

PhD Student at Karlsruher Institute of Technology

Within KIT, Dr. Axel Funke is leading the group Fast Pyrolysis of Biomass part of the Institute of Catalysis Research and Technology.

The research group is dedicated to the production of liquid fuels from biomass residues as well as on engineering wet and dry thermochemical biomass conversion technology.

The KIT team: Axel Funke and Ana Corread de Araujo and is part of WP5.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 101007130.