Recovery of biomolecules from condensates of process gases during thermal refinement of wood for the development of new wood products.

The exhaust vapors of the process of refinement of wood are not longer seen as industrial waste but a starting point for added value from products used in the timber industry, which represents a new approach for sustainable utilisation of wood.

Short Description




Process exhaust vapors produced during thermal refinement of wood represent, on the one hand, a waste product, and on the other hand, they are also they display hydrocarbon environmental pollutants. From a chemical as well as a biochemical point of view, however, they contain complex organic compounds - highly interesting biomolecules, the sustainable use of which represents an entirely unknown field of applications.

Beyond the company’s patent regarding thermal wood refinement (Upper Austria Innovation prize 2001), a dominating project objective was to condense the emanating vapor, to recover biomolecules and make them available for effective utilisation.

For this purpose, a pilot plant was established that enabled to condense the gas phase in fractions and to chemically analyse them. The project included also analytical procedures for the assessment of the biochemical and microbiological properties.

The scale up process from a small lab scale facility (using glass utensils initial phase of the project) to a pilot facility with stainless steel apparatus for on-line condensate recovery represented enormous challenges regarding biotechnological facility construction and gasification technique.

After a thorough investigation of analytical procedures, the fractions collected were subjected to analysis for elucidation of their chemical structure and biochemical testing on live human and fungi cell cultures. From several possible organic-chemical separation processes and analytical steps, those were chosen that appeared suitable for meeting our specific separation problems namely, separation sharpness (recovery), yield and cost-effectiveness. For molecular identification of the individual components in the extract, biochemical procedures tailored to the condensates were applied. Microbiological techniques were employed to assess the bacterial and antifungal properties of the components.

In addition to the main components namely, organic acids, non-aromatic alcohols, furanes, esters, non-aromatic aldehydes, and non-aromatic ketones, different phenylpropanes,numerous other compounds were identified. We were able to show that all of the 15 main classes of compounds, as defined by us, have economic potential and for some of these substances, prototypes were clearly established. The economic value ranges from oily components for conservation of thermally treated wood floors, over substances added to floor detergents and disinfection products for indoor use, to future energetic utilisation of the recovered organics (carbon acids and alcohols) within fuel cell technology.

Project Partners

Project management

Ao. Univ. Prof. Mag. Dr. Florian Überall
Biozentrum, Abt. f. Medizinische Biochemie MBC, Medizinische Universität Innsbruck

Project collaborator

Mag. Angela Wondrak, Dr. Mag. Oliver Wrulich, Anto Nogalo, Dr. Mag. Marcel Jenny
Biozentrum, Abt. f. Medizinische Biochemie MBC, Medizinische Universität Innsbruck

Project or cooperation partner

  • DI Markus Kleinhappl, DI Christian Roschitz, DI Stefan Martini, Michaela Titz, Ing. Tanja Gollinger
    Austrian Bioenergy Centre GmbH, Graz
  • Dr. Martin Kirchmair
    Mykon GesmbH. Innsbruck
  • Dr. Georg Bauer
    Agatex Lambach

Contact Address

Ao. Univ. Prof. Mag. Dr. Florian Überall
Biozentrum, Abt. f. Medizinische Biochemie MBC,
Medizinische Universität Innsbruck
Fritz Preglstrasse 3, 6020, Innsbruck
Tel.: +43 (512) 9003-70120