What is Biorizon?

Biorizon focuses on the technology development of biobased aromatics for performance materials, chemicals & coatings. Its ambition is to become one of the world's top centers in this field within five years. Global leaders as well as SME companies in the fields of feedstock, conversion, equipment and end-products are invited to join our industry driven, open innovation Shared Research Center. 

The purpose of Biorizon is to enable commercial production of biobased aromatics for its industrial partners by 2025. Aromatics are used in polymers, coatings, and chemicals. Their importance can hardly be overstated: aromatics are one of the most important raw materials for the chemical industry.

Who initiated Biorizon?

Biorizon is a cross-border initiative between TNO, VITO, ECN part of TNO and the Green Chemistry Campus and is part of Biobased Delta. 

Why focus on aromatics?

Aromatic building blocks represent a very significant share of our today’s building blocks, not only in order to create fuel components, base chemicals or polymers, but also to create polymer additives, colorants, flavors and fragrances. Currently virtually all aromatic building blocks are made from fossil oil that will become scarce. Hence, it is important to develop technology to replace the current aromatic petrochemical based building blocks by alternative feedstocks. 

Shale gas is rapidly emerging as a new feedstock, but will produce mainly light fractions such as ethylene/propylene, and no aromatics in gas-fueled crackers. Given the global challenges that society is facing with respect to CO2 emissions, pollution, global warming and shortage of suitable fossil oil reserves, new biobased production routes need to be realized urgently to address the ecological and economic challenges that humanity and industry are facing.

Do fossil chemicals and biobased chemicals have the same properties?

Often yes. Drop-in chemicals such as benzene, xylene and toluene have almost the same properties as fossil chemicals. Only the raw material is very different: petroleum versus biomass. This is a form of substitution: the biobased chemicals replace the fossil chemicals one-to-one.

Drop-in chemicals can – with the exception of the sustainable aspect of biobased chemicals – only compete on price. That is why biobased entrepreneurs develop opportunities for so-called functional chemicals. These are chemicals that can provide special properties, such as product lifetime extensions, greater flexibility, a rougher surface, or greater resistance. For these functional chemicals the market is smaller, but the distinctive character and the added value are larger, meaning that a higher price can be asked.

Now, for example, the Shared Research Center Biorizon examines how existing and new functional aromatic compounds can be developed from sugars and lignin. These biomass sources have properties that petroleum does not have. Biorizon examines how these unique features can be used optimally and profitablely in (new) molecules and applications. For Biorizon, one of the requirements is that the desired molecule can be manufactured from biomass cheaper than from a fossil source. Sustainability and profitability are thus united with each other.

Biorizon is powered by


This project is made possible by a contribution from the European
Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the framework of OP-Zuid.

Op Zuid