Glow-in-the-dark paper and sustainable oil take steps to market

A special glowing paper strip to quickly show infectious diseases, and a technology from spin-off Vertoro to develop a sustainable oil from biomass. These two TU/e projects can be further commercialized thanks to financing from NWO.

You only need a special glowing paper strip, a drop of blood and a digital camera. This gives you a practical and reliable way to test for infectious diseases, Eindhoven and Japanese researchers, led by TU/e professor Maarten Merkx, announced at the end of last year. The test can provide a definitive answer within twenty minutes, making expensive and time-consuming lab measurements in the hospital unnecessary.


The test shows the presence of infectious diseases by searching for certain antibodies in the blood. Your body makes these substances in response to, for example, viruses and bacteria. Doctors also increasingly use antibodies as a medicine, for example in the case of cancer or rheumatism. This simple test is also suitable for regularly monitoring the dose of such medicines in order to be able to correct in time.

NWO is now awarding a so-called Take Off grant to map the commercial possibilities of this technology, in particular in the direction of monitoring therapeutic antibodies. Merkx: “Part of that will be the first validation of our ‘glow in the dark strips’ with blood from patients who use therapeutic antibodies. In addition, we will compare our technology with the technology currently used in clinical chemical laboratories.”


Vertoro is Spanish for "the green gold". With that name, the founders of this TU/e spin off immediately make clear what expectations they have of their end product. Vertoro emerged a few years ago from the research by TU/e professor Emiel Hensen and dr. Michael Boot (co-founder and director Vertoro) when it turned out to be possible to convert lignin and wood into so-called crude lignin oil (CLO). This gives lignin, which is created as a residual product in paper pulp, cellulose ethanol factories, or even agricultural and forest wood residuals, a useful second life. CLO can be compared to fossil crude oil: an intermediate product for producing fuels and chemicals. With the main difference that CLO is a sustainable variant, hence the name "the green gold".

With a Take Off financing of 250,000 euros from NWO, Vertoro is going to do the conversion from CLO to sustainable olefins and aromatics. These are important platform chemicals in the petrochemical industry, for example for the production of plastics. "First we produce CLO on a small scale from lignin and wood in a pilot plant at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen, which will be ready later this month," says Panos Kouris, co-founder, CTO of Vertoro and PhD student in the Hensen group. "We want then to convert this intermediate into olefins and aromatics at TU/e."

This involves a few kilograms per day, but according to Kouris, the company can use this concept it to show that CLO can be  co-fed  in existing oil refineries in order to increase the sustainability of these factories.

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