A bioeconomy is the introduction of a biobased economy and the promise of sustainably manufactured goods. The head of the Institute of Forest Utilisation at the University of Freiburg Prof. Dr. Gero Becker examines the efficiency and sustainability of the provision of timber and forestry products and focusses on the issue as to how wood residues can be industrially recycled.
Ozan Gökay, chemical engineer and chemist, has been thinking about setting up his own company for many years. Now he is about to turn his plans into reality and his company ANASYN will start operating in November 2010. The company will focus on analytics, syntheses and biotechnology.
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.
Jatropha is an extremely hardy and frugal plant species native to tropical and subtropical areas where it grows on wasteland. Jatropha seeds contain large quantities of oil that can be processed into a variety of products such as biofuels, animal feed, cosmetics and organic fertiliser. However, few Jatropha species have been properly domesticated, and the yields of the plants that grow in the wild are too small to be economically viable. Jatropha experts from the consulting company JatroSolutions from Stuttgart-Hohenheim are seeking to change this and since 2007 have been focussing on ways to make Jatropha cultivation economically profitable, as well as ecologically and socially acceptable. The first Jatropha varieties that meet the required criteria were placed on the market in 2014.
A growing number of industrial companies would like to use renewable raw materials for production, out of ecological, economic or technical interest. However, it is not always easy for many of the companies to get into contact with farmers and secure the supply of crops in the quantity and quality they require. Dresden-based C.S.P. Consulting und Service für Pflanzliche Rohstoffe GmbH is now able to use its know-how and that of its partners to close the gap between the farmers, i.e. producers of raw materials, and the processing companies.
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.
It is rather reassuring to know that fossil energy carriers can be replaced by renewable ones. However, the difficulties are always in the details. For example with regard to the storage capacity of electricity produced with sun and wind; or with regard to the use of biomass to produce natural gas substitutes. The Stuttgart-based Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) has a number of solutions up its sleeve for overcoming such difficulties. The ZSW researchers are able to produce high-quality natural gas substitutes from wood and electrical power. In addition, the centre has just set a world record in the efficiency of thin-film solar cells.
Renewable resources not only provide the field of biotechnology with interesting possibilities for the development of new materials. Scientists from the Department of Chemical Material Science at the University of Konstanz have now succeeded in chemically synthesising a new type of plastic from plant oils.
At present plastics are produced from crude oil or gas. The research group of Professor Dr. Stefan Mecking chair of chemical materials sciences at the University of Constance has found a way to produce plastics from plant oil a regenerative resource.
In the future the Swiss company MYKOTOWN GREENTECH AG will focus on sustainably produced fuels and regenerative energies. The company is thus continuing its journey towards the production of biological and ecological plants using mycorrhizal fungi as well as tapping new fields of business.
The Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart is investigating whether it is possible to replace traditional plastics in the building industry with natural fibre-reinforced biopolymers. As part of the project, which is being funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, the ITKE researchers are working with the Nimbus Group to develop transparent lightweight building boards from biopolymers with acoustic function.
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.
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.
Up until now biotechnology has mainly been focused on the production of enzymes basic chemical and pharmaceutical substances as well as other biobased materials. From now on efforts will be made to exploit the potential of biotechnology at the beginning of value creation chains by improving the access to regenerative resources. Apart from its potential for use as food and animal feed there are two more concepts that focus on the utilisation of biomass the material and energetic use of biomass. The problem is that these two concepts are in competition with each other.
In 2011 Baden-Württemberg was home to around 37 bioenergy villages and several others are under construction or in the planning phase. Bioenergy villages produce all of their electricity and energy for heating locally from renewable resources such as maize and wood electricity is mainly generated from biogas.
Industrial hemp is a material with huge potential. In future it will be possible to use hemp fibres in many industrial sectors. Badische Naturfaseraufbereitung GmbH is a company that processes hemp fibres, thus forming a link between agriculture and industry.
Bark fleece is known to be the most ancient material and has been used for thousands of years. It is made in Africa using traditional methods. The company BARK CLOTH Europe based in Ebringen Germany is working with organic farmers in Uganda to produce this wood-free biomaterial. Working with partners of the network BARK CLOTH now hopes to refine BARKCLOTH with biopolymers.
Microalgae have played an important role as animal feed or food supplements for decades. They can also produce complex chemical compounds. This so-called material use of microalgae is already a major economic sector. However, when it comes to algal biotechnology, they are almost universally seen as just energy sources.
Industry is being greened. The EU has put in place schemes to boost the bioeconomy Germany Finland Norway Denmark and the Netherlands are working hard on bioeconomy strategies. Even regional stakeholders are developing concepts aimed at supporting the bioeconomy. Things are moving in the right direction.
It is just a matter of time before coal and oil will run out. However, there are, it would seem, ways to counteract this situation. Plants can be turned into fossil energy carriers, with the added advantage that the combustion of plants on average only releases as much CO2 as the plants have previously absorbed from the atmosphere. Professor Andrea Kruse from the University of Hohenheim is developing methods for using whole green plants for the industrial production of biofuel.
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.
At the Global Bioeconomy Summit held in Berlin in November 2015, international agendas were adopted that aim to integrate the bioeconomy as part of the development of a sustainable global economy and the fight against man-made global warming. The Summit also called for halting the further deterioration of planetary environmental processes to ensure a sustainable future.
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.
The lack of flexibility with regard to peak demand for electricity – both for consumers and producers – is a well-known problem as far as the production of electricity from renewable resources is concerned. Biogas plants present a particular challenge due to the complex and relatively slow microbial processes involved. A research project called FLEXIZUCKER at the Universities of Ulm and Göttingen aims to make biogas production more flexible and hence the supply of renewable electricity more grid- and market compatible.