Bamboo to replace steel and fungi to replace concrete: a research group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is working on ways of using renewable raw materials in the construction industry. Biological building materials such as bamboo and fungal mycelium could one day replace conventional materials such as steel and concrete.
Together with various partners from environmental associations, the scientific community and the textile industry, VAUDE has launched the TextileMission research project. The goal is to find solutions that will reduce the environmental impact of microplastics released when synthetic apparel is washed. VAUDE is excited about the initial successful developments.
How “bio” can a car be? Quite a lot, as the Bioconcept car developed by Reutlingen-based Four Motors demonstrates. Former DTM driver Tom von Löwis and his team are currently working on a fourth-generation biofuel-powered Bioconcept car. The body parts and interior are made from fully or partially biobased materials and composites with plant-fibre reinforced duromers. The optimised combustion engines are powered with biofuels. Anyone who thinks this is just a nice little hobby is wrong. Renewable energy is central to the team's commitment to motor racing.
Junior professor Dr.-Ing. Hanaa Dahy and her team from the ITKE in Stuttgart are developing everyday biobased materials that have a wide range of possible applications. The materials can be used for thermal insulation, designer furniture, yoga mats or resilient flooring in sports halls. The researchers use techniques from the plastics industry to process recyclable and compostable materials.
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.
The aim of the joint three-year "PULaCell" project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) is to develop biobased reinforcing profiles for solid wood construction materials. As part of the project, several research institutes and industrial companies are developing biobased, cellulose fibre-reinforced polyurethane profiles that will make future wood-based materials stronger.
The disadvantage of wind and solar energy is that they cannot be produced continuously nor can they be stored, at least not yet. High-performance batteries that can store intermittent renewable energy sources might change this in the future. Sodium-ion batteries would be both a cheap and environmentally friendly possibility. Prof. Dr. Stefano Passerini and his team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a battery that works, amongst other things, with carbon-based active material produced from unused and windfall apples.
Scientists have developed a biotechnological process to produce bacterial alginate. The alginate quality is highly reproducible, making it suitable for the production of fibre-based medicinal products such as wound dressings.
There are research projects where the development of a hypothesis is as exciting as the final results. A project at the Ulm-based institute ILM that is being funded under the Molecular Bionics programme is one of such projects. This immediately becomes clear when Raimund Hibst ILM director and project coordinator refers to it as a risky and ambitious project. If everything goes according to plan the ILM will be able to improve photovoltaic plants and bioreactors create optical construction materials and provide protection against short-wave UV light.
Thomas Paulöhrl, polymer chemist from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), was awarded the 2012 Lanxess Talent Award for his achievements in further developing light-induced click strategies that can now be used for generating various surface structures and three-dimensional frameworks. His Ph.D. thesis not only provides the basis for new ways to efficiently modify material, it also opens up new research opportunities in medical drug discovery.
The DITF - German Institutes of Textile and Fibre Research Denkendorf - form the largest textile research centre in Europe. The development of sustainable products and processes has been on the DITF’s agenda for years and is one of the institutes’ research priorities. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Götz T. Gresser, the director and spokesman of the DITF, talked with BIOPRO about the background to the textile developments.
Biogranules are a starting point for the production of a wide range of novel biobased materials: in a BMBF-funded project called ”EnzymaCell”, a company called TECNARO and its cooperation partners have developed thermoplastic biofoils. The innovative combination of cellulose and natural additives has led to a material with many application possibilities.
Glass fibre-reinforced plastics have become an integral part of our everyday life: in cars, playground slides, swimming pools or on facades, such composites are used wherever stability is required. Unfortunately, both production and disposal are far from sustainable. Scientists from the German Institutes for Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf have now developed an innovative material made from pure cellulose, which has practically the same basic mechanical properties as glass fibre-reinforced plastics, but can be produced simply and non-toxically, and is also fully recyclable.
Accidental oil spills such as those following oil disasters need to be cleaned up as quickly as possible. Researchers from the KIT in Karlsruhe have now developed an environmentally friendly process that can eliminate oil spills effectively. Nanofur is a material that imitates the fine hairs of aquatic ferns and is capable of absorbing large amounts of oil within a relatively short time.
Outdoor lovers and athletes love them: water-repellent jackets and trousers. However, many consumers are unaware that the chemicals used to functionalise the textile surface often pollute the environment. Organic fluorine compounds (perfluorocarbons = PFC) are usually added to textiles to make them water-repellent. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB and the Hohenstein Group are researching an environmentally friendly and sustainable method for making textiles water-repellent.
Did evolution invent games of chance? During the development of sperm and egg cells, maternal and paternal genes are mixed at random, thus giving rise to new combinations of traits. What are the molecular mechanisms of this process known as DNA recombination? How can it be used to breed plants with higher yields? Prof. Dr. Holger Puchta and his team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are investigating the processes associated with the breaking up, unwinding, crossing over and rejoining of DNA strands in thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). In a strange twist, the researchers are also dealing with breast cancer genes.
Novel biomass materials suitable for various applications need to be developed in order to establish a biobased raw material platform within the bioeconomy. These biobased materials must be able to compete with conventional fossil fuel-based materials, both from a technological and economic point of view. Researchers at the University of Hohenheim are working on the development of conductive carbon materials from biomass with the long-term goal of making the substitution of fossil electrode materials in high-capacitance energy storage systems ready for market.
Prof. Dr. Harald Krug a toxicologist who runs the Materials-Biology Interaction division at Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research in St. Gallen Switzerland and his team are investigating the interactions of synthetic materials with biological systems. The team of 25 researchers is focusing in particular on the effect of particles and nanomaterials such as CNT on human and animal cells. The division has been an official member of the BioLAGO BioRegion since July 2008.
Many companies lack the resources and the infrastructure required to turn basic research ideas into marketable products. However, there is a great need for innovative materials for technical as well as economic reasons. Polymaterials AG’s structured service portfolio is designed to support its clients in finding solutions for material problems and implementing innovative ideas.
Since the end of July 2008 the Biomaterials laboratory of the Empa in St. Gallen has been an official member of the BioLAGO BioRegion. We talked with Dr. Manfred Zinn about how the researchers find materials with the desired properties.
In a research project, the Fraunhofer Institute for manufacturing engineering and automation (IPA) and the company Tecnaro and d dealt with orthoses and prostheses made of bio-based materials. You developed suitable organic polymer compounds, it produced prototypes and tested them.
The Institute of Textile Technology and Process Engineering Denkendorf ITV Denkendorf is Germanys largest and oldest textile research centre. Research is carried out in specialised laboratories and technical centres covering the entire range of textiles from raw materials to the final product both in basic as well as applied research.
No standards are available on the proper storage and documentation of sample material areas in which every research group does what suits it best. However in February 2010 the International Moss Stock Centre IMSC was established at the University of Freiburg and is rapidly changing this situation. Researchers led by Prof. Dr. Ralf Reski have developed a method that enables them to store biological material in a cryobank for an indefinite period of time and thaw it when needed.
Action plans prove all the more resilient for being well supported by facts and figures and based on thorough ethical thinking. This equally applies to the utilisation of biomass. Researchers involved in an interdisciplinary research project at the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen have therefore developed indicators to help improve the utilisation of biomass in the future. The findings are based on investigations of the utilisation pathways from agricultural raw material to the end of the life of products produced from the raw material.