Lixea is an Imperial College spin-out company developing an innovative biomass fractionation process using low-cost ionic liquids. Currently, our society is heavily relying on the use of crude oil while products are discarded at the end of their lives. We want to change that, which is why we are developing novel chemical processes that enable us to live more sustainably in a clean world. Our first product is the BioFlex process that uses waste wood and agricultural by-products as well as sustainably grown biomass to produce a greener alternative to today’s petrochemical industry while providing unwanted waste materials with a new purpose.
An alternative to crude oil
Lixea’s proprietary process enables the use of any type of woody material for the large-scale production of bio-derived materials, chemicals and fuels. As such, we are promoting the bioeconomy, an economic concept where wood and other forms of lignocellulosic biomass are used instead of crude oil to produce heat, electricity, materials and chemicals.
What are Ionic Liquids?
Solvents of the future
Ionic liquids are a class of solvents comprised exclusively of ions. Unlike table salt, ionic liquids melt at temperatures below 100°C and some are liquid at and below room temperature. They have very low vapour pressure, which makes them safe to handle in an open atmosphere and easily recyclable. Many ionic liquids however have prohibitively high production costs, which has often hindered their industrial application. This is why our team from Imperial College London has specially designed ionic liquids to be cheap. At Lixea, we use ionic liquids which are easily synthesised from bulk chemicals, thermally stable and will cost no more than traditional organic solvents.
Pioneers in Sustainability
In the EU and US alone around 100m tonnes of waste wood remain unrecycled every year. This represents a vast economic loss and an untapped resource.
Converting the waste of today into the raw materials of tomorrow is the key component of the conceptual circular economy. The circular economy is widely deemed as the only truly sustainable economic model.
Lixea therefore provides a key stepping stone to a sustainable future and is in keeping with seven of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The proprietary BioFlex process is a novel pretreatment technology for lignocellulosic biomass, offering unprecedented feedstock flexibility. Different types of biomass, including agricultural residues, energy crops, as well as forestry residues and even waste construction wood, can be used in a one-size-fits-all process. An inexpensive and recyclable ionic liquid separates the different components of biomass, i.e. cellulose and lignin, while by-products as well as heavy metals present in waste wood can be recovered.
Feedstock flexibility: effective for any type of woody material including softwoods
Compatible with metal and organic contaminants like paint and preservatives
High performance: high lignin and hemicellulose removal rate in short reactions
Mild conditions: Near ambient pressure and temperatures below 200°C
No harmful emissions: Ionic liquids have low vapour pressure and are therefore not emitted to atmosphere
Circular economy: Makes use of waste feedstocks, such as demolition wood and agricultural residues
One size does fit all!
The BioFlex process is effective on a range of biomass types, including hardwoods and softwoods as well as heavy metal contaminated mixed waste wood. What is more, most feedstocks can be treated under identical conditions, offering unprecedented flexibilty. We are keen to validate our process with as many wood types as possible, with a particular interest in material that would otherwise be landfilled or incinerated. Curious if your feedstock would work in our process? Contact us now!
Feeding a sustainable chemical industry
The main products from the BioFlex process are cellulose and lignin. Our cellulose is of high purity and can be used for paper, dissolving pulp and nanocellulose applications. BioFlex lignin is virtually sulfur-free and can be used in PFA resins. By-products, such as furfural and acetic acid, both widely used in the chemical industry, can be isolated also. Get in touch if you'd like some of our products to test in your application or to develop new products from them.
Meet our passionate team working towards a more sustainable future.
Dr Florence Gschwend
CEO & Co-Founder
Florence is co-founder and CEO of Lixea. She has received mentoring and financial support as a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellow as well as through ClimateKIC. She has won several prizes for both her research and entrepreneurial efforts and was awarded the EIT Change Award. She is passionate about using her skills to make a lasting difference to the environment and society and has been named as one of Europe’s most promising game-changers under 30 by Forbes.
Professor Jason Hallett
Scientific and Technical Adviser & Co-Founder
Jason is Professor in Sustainable Chemical Technology at Imperial College’s Chemical Engineering Department. He leads a team of 30 researchers working in the field of biorefining, with a focus on industrial application. He has obtained more than £10 million in research support, including several projects under commercial development. His overall research vision is to develop sustainable, solvent-based chemical processes based on biorenewables that have real-world impact improving everyday life.
Dr Agi Brandt
CSO & Co-founder
Agi obtained her PhD from Imperial College in 2011. She originally developed the BioFlex process and has since continued working on it at Imperial College in Jason’s team and is now heading her own research group at Imperial College’s Chemistry Department where she investigates novel lignin materials. In 2015 she was awarded the President's award of excellence for outstanding early career researcher and in 2016 the Sir William Wakeham Award for having made a significant contribution to her research field.
Dr Artun Sukan
Artun has worked in sourcing and evaluating early-stage technology and engineering investments since 2016. He focuses on novel chemicals and materials, clean tech and engineering sectors. He represents IP Group on the board of Lixea. Previously, Artun has worked in Technology Transfer and IP management at Imperial Innovations, where he identified, protected and managed intellectual property from Imperial College London and has assisted various commercial deals. Artun holds a PhD in Applied Biotechnology from the University of Westminster, UK.
Heather is a chemist working on cellulose properties and applications, material selection and process optimisation. She completed her master’s degree at the University of York’s Green Chemistry Center of Excellence where
she worked on lignocellulose fractionation using sustainable solvents. She brings together excellent lab skills, an interest in sustainability and
a strong drive and self-motivation. Her position is co-financed by the Royal Society of Chemistry Enterprise Plus Scheme.
Dr Dunstan Cooke
Director of Corporate Operations
Dunstan has over 15 years of experience working for tech start-ups. He was previously the Business Director at Plaxica, a process engineering company in the bio-economy and renewable chemistry space where he led the commercial and corporate legal processes around its IP licensing. He has experience in leading financing negotiations, conducting IP due diligence services and FTO searches, as well as in business development and operations.
Shirley Min Yang
Product Development Chemist
Shirley is working part-time developing products from BioFlex lignin. Besides working for Lixea, she is carrying out a PhD at Imperial College's Chemistry Department where she works on developing a novel, sustainable and low-cost carbon fibre production process from BioFlex lignin. She has previously worked on lignin chemical modification and lignin carbon materials as part of her Master's project and has a total of 2.5 years of experience working on lignin applications.
Process Engineering Consultant
Francisco is a consultant process engineer working on our process development. Francisco has spent the last 4 years working on ionic liquid based lignocellulose fractionation as part of his PhD. He has also studied physico-chemical properties and corrosion behaviour of ionic liquids. Previously he worked as a senior chemical engineer for Technip (now TechnipFMC) where he worked on LNG projects. He enjoys the opportunity and challenge of performing process design and scale-up of new sustainable technologies developed at laboratory scale.
Dr Brendon Miller
Senior Process Engineering Consultant
Brendon has 20 years of experience as a consulting chemical engineer with a strong background in process modelling and scale-up of new technologies. He is particularly focused on identifying the most efficient methods of delivering and monetising technical innovations.
5 December 2019
Chrysalix, now Lixea, is one of 75 start-ups and SMEs who have been awarded a share of €278 million to accelerate their development. We are absolutely over the moon to receive €2.3 million in order to build our BioFlex pilot plant over the next two years.
IChemE Young Researcher Award
7 November 2019
Chrysalix is over the moon about CEO and co-founder Florence being awarded the Young Researcher Award for her efforts developing the BioFlex process at the IChemE Global Awards. The award recognises the individual under the age of 30 who best demonstrates the impact of their research in helping to address important economic, environmental or social issues.
The BioFlex project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 836211.
2nd Prize at the EIB Social Innovation Tournament
23 October 2018
At the Social Innovation Tournament held by the European Investment Bank, Chrysalix wins the second prize in the special category of Circular Economy. We are grateful for the recognition and support that comes with the prize!
21 March 2018
Florence has been awarded a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship which will support her for the next 12 months to further develop Chrysalix Technologies into a sustainable business.
2nd Prize at Climate Impact Battle at Slush
30 November 2017
Climate KIC Venture Competition
18 September 2017
9 June 2017
After the initial proof-of-concept work at the BDC in York, Jason and his team are awarded a Royal Society Translation award to scale-up their process over the next 2 years. Chrysalix (now Lixea) is also awarded the BioBase4SME voucher to carry out work at the BioBase Europe Pilot Plant in Ghent. The work started in September and will be finished in January 2018.
16 January 2017
We are thrilled to hear that Florence was named by Forbes 30 under 30 as one of Europe’s most promising game changers in the field of Science and Healthcare. Read her interview about her journey from the Climate Launchpad Competition in October to the Forbes 30under30 Science and Healthcare list.