If we want to limit the effects of climate change, wood is the building material of choice as it can store carbon. As trees grow, they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and, even when they are harvested, carbon remains stored in the wood for the lifespan of the product. Prof. Dederich from Rottenburg University of Applied Forest Sciences shows that even multi-storey buildings can be built from wood and be safe, durable and aesthetically pleasing.
While the use of biotechnological methods for the purification of water, soil and air has already been state of the art for quite a few years, the use of microorganisms for the recovery of metal and mineral raw materials from industrial and agricultural waste has also started to attract the interest of scientists. This dossier addresses this topic, explains what geobiotechnology and urban mining are all about and presents some of the activities going on in Baden-Württemberg.
The boundaries between traditional scientific disciplines are becoming less and less distinct. Interdisciplinary cooperation is often required to study complex processes and biomolecular issues. Interdisciplinary cooperation is central to chemical biology, a scientific discipline that applies chemical substances, methods and tools to the study of biological systems ranging from the chemical synthesis of biologically active substances to the specific chemical modification of biomolecules.
The Baden-Württemberg construction sector is currently experiencing a similar boom to the one that occurred in 1996. Between January 2016 and January 2017, low interest rates and uninterrupted demand for housing has led to an increase in orders of almost 10%1. A shift from conventional building materials to biobased building materials and products would likely also support the transition to a bioeconomy in this economic sector. The Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart could help make this transition possible.
Chemical energy is stored in the material used for packaging carpets and so on. Some of this energy can be recycled from discarded products. Every year the Thermische Restabfallbehandlungs- und Energieerzeugungsanlage TREA Breisgau Thermal Residual Waste Treatment and Energy Generation Facility located in the Breisgau industrial estate close to Freiburg converts around 170000 t of residual waste into electricity. Dr. Holger Heinig COO of TREA Breisgau gives us some insights into a process that harnesses heat and steam and he also talks about future prospects for the cogeneration of power and heat.
The German city of Stuttgart purifies 27 million litres of wastewater every hour thus eliminating up to 95 per cent of the organic compounds. Scientists are now trying to find ways to use wastewater treatment plants for purposes other than the purification of wastewater. Besides making the purification of water more effective and complete the scientists are investigating whether fertilisers and hydrogen can be produced during the reclamation process.
“We can do in ten minutes what nature took millions of years to complete,” said Henning Bockhorn from the Engler-Bunte Institute at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) referring to a method which his team developed for the energy supplier Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW). The patented method enables biomass to be converted into a material similar to brown coal. The method is known as “biomass steam processing” (BSP) and is currently being optimised in a pilot plant operated by Energie Baden-Württemberg.
Biotechnology companies have always had international ties: they employ cutting-edge technologies and market the discoveries and developments of researchers around the world. Rapid innovation cycles and rapid technological developments force companies to undertake costly R&D as well as market their products and/or services across national borders.
In 2013, with the backing of BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH and Plattform Umwelttechnik, the managing directors of GlobalFlow GmbH successfully obtained funding under the ”Young Innovators” programme. The programme is run by the Baden-Württemberg government and is aimed at giving university graduates who want to establish their own businesses the opportunity to develop their business idea further. Ursula Göttert from BIOPRO Baden-Württmberg GmbH met up with Nadine Antic, managing director of both GlobalFlow GmbH and albfertil GmbH, to find out how she has got on with her project.
In 2015, almost a third of Germany's electricity came from wind, sun and biomass. We need to continue reducing CO2 emissions to become even less dependent on fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum, and thus make electricity generation even more climate friendly. Baden-Württemberg has set an ambitious target for the shift in direction from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewable energy sources: reducing current energy consumption by 50% and replacing 80% of the energy used with energy generated from renewable sources, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.
Molecular biologist Marja Timmermans has found out how plant cells can communicate with each other using mobile ribonucleic acid molecules. The use of small RNAs (sRNA) is a fundamental principle that applies not only to plant cells, but also to animal and human cells. These days, Timmermans' laboratory methods are used around the world. She has recently been awarded Germany’s most highly endowed international research award - the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship. An Alexander von Humboldt Professorship has brought Timmermans from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the USA to the Centre for Plant Molecular Biology in Tübingen where she will continue her research on sRNA mobility.
Dr. Wolfgang Fiedler head of the Radolfzell ornithological station was practically born into his profession. Born on the Mettnau peninsula which is close to the station Fiedler spent hours and hours watching birds as a child. Later when he was at school he worked as a volunteer in the ornithological station.
Renewable energies do not come out of nowhere. The sustainable cultivation of firewood requires land for plantation. The main criticism of the use of land for the production of renewable energies is that the production of renewable resources is in strong opposition to the production of human food. The forestry scientist Janine Fischbach and her colleagues at the University of Freiburg are investigating ways to avoid a plate petrol tank dilemma.
Dr. Stefan Schiller from the Institute for Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Freiburg became interested in the diversity of molecular possibilities in nature as a student and is now a specialist in bionic chemistry and synthetic nanobiotechnology. Amongst other things his work involves the construction of complex protein machines that transfer signals protein networks for use in medicine and drug shuttles that enable the targeted application of drugs.
Alternative engines and fuels for cars of the future still lack technical maturity and are not yet competitive. In the short to medium term, the only way to replace fossil fuel will be other fossil fuels – compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Biodiesel and ethanol are and will remain for the foreseeable future the only renewable resource alternatives to fossil fuel. As is the case for any other technology, the development of second-generation (2G) biogenic fuels requires a lot of time, money and know-how.
Companies are facing increasing demands. Globalisation and an increasingly quality-conscious market increase competition and pricing pressure. To remain globally competitive companies need a product and service quality that will satisfy the customer in the long term. Alexander Cansier managing director of OrgaConnect GmbH has specialised in the support of small and medium-sized companies in the life sciences pharmaceutical and medical technology industries. Speaking with BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH Cansier explains the advantages of certification and how he can assist companies that are planning to implement quality management systems.