From ancient crops
materials and products for the future

The main goal of the VeLiCa project is to make again gainful the growing of flax and hemp in Regione Lombardia (Northern Italy) where it used to be widespread at the beginning of the 20th century. This target will be pursued by the exploitation of all the parts of the plant to make different products with different added value.
The overall amount of the project is 5 million euro. The financing of Regione Lombardia, corresponding to 50% of the total project, is mainly devoted to young people training.

Activities

Flax and hemp can produce both oil and fiber.
Once the more suitable and more productive genotypes will have been selected, the oil obtained from the seeds will be used for the production, through innovative heterogeneous and homogeneous catalytic techniques, of Biodiesel, bio-lubricants with high flash point, polyols to be used as intermediate for the synthesis of polyurethanes and other bio-polymers. On the other hand, selected enzymes will be used to isolate ω-3 and ω-6 components from the oil thus obtaining valuable oils for the nutraceutical market.

By growing the plant till seed maturity we will get a low quality fiber, namely technical fiber. This kind of fiber can be used to produce insulating boards, but we will concentrate on the production of composites with PET or other plastic materials. This kind of composites are already known and used in the automotive and aviation industry due to their high crash resistance and lightness. In this project we will study formulations suitable for the production of fruit&veg crates that will be more resistant, therefore long lasting, more light, recyclable and more easily disposable with respect to analogous composites with glass fiber.
The more innovative part of the project is represented by the exploitation of all the residues of these transformations.

The meal, residue of oil pressing, is rich in proteins and therefore a valuable feed. However, the present project will look for new application of protein hydrolysates obtained from such meals. In particolar, we will test these hydrolisates as cosmetic ingredients and we will look for other bio-active molecole, such as anti-microbial, antioxidants and maybe antitumoral agents: flax seeds e.g. are rich in lignans (phytoestrogens) able to slow down the growing of some hormone-dependent tumor.


Linum usitatissimum L., Experimental field at Treviglio (BG), agronomic trials

Glycerol, the residue of biodiesel and biolubricants production, will be used for the preparation of iper-branched polymers potentially useful for drug delivery.
Finally, the biomass left after scutching of the fiber will be treated with cocktails of enzymes to separate lignin and give simple sugars. This biomass could also be sent to a gasifier to produce the H2 required for some treatment of the oil.

Progetto finanziato da: