The performance and application range of biobased lubricants is growing ever broader. Several biolubricants have been placed on the market, including plant-oil based products and synthetic plant-based lubricants. In this article, Rolf Luther from FUCHS EUROPE SCHMIERSTOFFE GmbH in Mannheim talks about the technical properties and potential application areas of biolubricants, some of which have been shown to be superior to conventional crude oil-based products.
Biomass can be used to produce chemicals, fibres, pigments and plastics. These products are either identical to their petroleum-based counterparts or have completely new properties. Biorefineries will play a key role in the transition to a bioeconomy. There is great expectation placed on the potential ability to convert the countless carbon compounds in biomass into chemicals and material components.
Agricultural land on Earth is limited. However, the increased need for food and feed coupled with the increasing use of biomass feedstocks leads to areas of conflict such as intensive farming, biodiversity loss, land grabbing and indirect land use change. Governments are faced with the major challenge of having to deal with and shape the bioeconomy while taking equally into account the ecological, economic and ethical concerns and integrating them in sustainable solutions.
Nature provides the material basis for a bioeconomy. Preventive and production-integrated environmental protection will therefore become even more important in a bioeconomy. Powerful analytical systems that can be used in industrial processes or in the field will provide information about soil, air and water quality. Environmental analytics and monitoring are crucial for the bioeconomy.
A major goal of the bioeconomy is to use larger quantities of biobased raw materials to produce energy, transport fuels and feedstock for industrial processes. This requires detailed analyses, simulations, concepts and processes. Major focus needs to be placed on issues relating to crop production, biomass potentials, land surface requirements, conversion technologies, biobased value creation networks and food security. Agriculture, forestry, waste management and the industry in general will need to work in concert as far as the raw materials all of them use or deal with are concerned.
Examples of fuels produced from biomass are biomethane, renewable natural gas (RNG), biogenic hydrogen, biokerosene, biomethanol, bioethanol and higher alcohols. However, in future, care must be taken to avoid the well-documented conflict between crops used for food and those used for fuel production. The bioeconomy strategy therefore calls for only using the biomass that cannot be used for producing food. Microalgae, biowaste and residual materials have huge potential in this area.
High-performance lubricants are used in a broad range of different industrial applications. Chemie-Technik GmbH supplies numerous industrial sectors around the world with lubricants oils greases and sprays. In the coming years the company plans to focus increasingly on the use of renewable resources for the production of lubricants. The company always places a great deal of importance on producing high-quality products.
Many chemicals in lubricants and washing powder are produced from fossil fuel. However, as fossil fuel is limited and reserves are slowly but surely running out, finding suitable substitutes is essential. This is the only way to ensure that much needed working materials continue to be available in the future. Sandra Heß from the University of Konstanz is involved in an interdisciplinary PhD project that explores the production of plastics, lubricants and surfactants from algal oil.
The aim of the Technofunctional Proteins (TeFuProt) innovation alliance is to develop in an environmentally compatible way new products with high earnings potential by using proteins from agricultural residues. As part of the alliance, the lubricant company FUCHS EUROPE SCHMIERSTOFFE GmbH from Mannheim will add modified rapeseed proteins as non-toxic additives to its product portfolio. The use of proteins from renewable raw materials contributes to the creation of a biobased, sustainable economy.
k-labor GmbH focuses on the initial inspection of samples for the automotive industry and the testing of a broad range of different materials. k-labor also specialises in environmental simulations and durability testing and offers consulting and the transfer of technologies in the plastics sector.
Algae are rich in valuable substances and can be grown easily, which makes them promising candidates for the sustainable production of raw materials. The work done by Prof. Dr. Stefan Mecking at the University of Konstanz in cooperation with plant physiologist Prof. Dr. Peter Kroth, confirms this. The two scientists have developed a method to transform algae oil into high-quality chemical raw materials which can, amongst other things, be used for the production of polymers. This opens up new possibilities for the use of algae as a raw material source beyond just a substitute for crude oil.
Biogenic raw materials have never been as popular as they are now. Efforts to tap renewable carbon resources are already underway, despite the fact that new oil drilling technologies are boosting fossil fuel stockpiles. In the medium term, industry will have to expand its raw materials base, and in the long term it may have to renew it completely. Industrial biotechnology is one of the key technologies in the transition from an economy based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable resources. The microbes that produce renewable resources need access to a sufficient supply of biomass. But what kind of biomass will they use and do we have enough of it?