Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy

Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy

Chemical engineering and processing of renewable resources

Chemical Engineering and Processing of Renewable Resources represents the engineering core of the Bioeconomy Science Center. It provides the engineering principles of the next generation's bio-based value chains.

 The research approach focuses primarily on the conservation of highly functionalized molecular structures, which already exist within biogenic raw materials. Their maceration and fractionation is followed by a selective catalytic transformation of the crude fractions into the target products. This new concept focuses on the conservational processing of the biomass in liquid phase. This requires a system-based bioeconomical approach that must link all elements of the value chain, from the agricultural biomass production to the conception of tailor-made products. Because of the seasonal nature and the varying characteristics of the plants, the processing units must be realized close to the agricultural production site and constructed of easily deployable, compact, or even miniaturized modular elements in order to minimize the transportation costs. For the production and processing of the biomass, large amounts of water are required. Water preparation, cleaning, and recycling must be an integral part of the entire concept.

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Research topics

The subjects of this research topic can be addressed from the perspective of the bioeconomy value chain or from the methodological approaches:

  • W1: Preparation of crude extract - from the plant to well defined monomeric intermediates.
    The preparation of the crude extract must be tuned to the molecular and morphological structure of the biomass. After crushing the molecular components, they will be isolated for further processing in an energy efficient and gentle way. The scientific challenge consists of the integration of classical sequentially arranged basic operations within one apparatus. Beyond the classical mechanical extraction followed by a thermal treatment, the particles extracted from the maceration and fractionation process may also be dissolved in "smart solvents" (ionic liquids; Organosolv and other cocktails) or even depolymerised by chemo- or biocatalysis.

  • W2: Product transformation - from monomeric intermediates to material products.
    For the additional processing of intermediate products, energy efficiency and substance selectivity are the main focus. The suitable catalytic principle must be chosen for each reaction step seperately. Because biocatalysis usually takes place in the liquid phase and chemical catalysis in an organic solution, their combination in the reaction chain represents an engineering challenge. For situations in which cleaning steps within the reaction chain are essential, computer aided methods must be applied to integrate the preparation and reaction processes.

  • W3: Product design - from molecule to function.
    The high degree of oxygenation of biogenic raw materials requires new material products to minimize the costly H2 -demanding and water-producing deoxygenation processes. The products' characteristics are determined by their usage, for example, fuels or polymers. These material products must be formulated as functional products such as fuel mixtures or polymeric particles and films. These functionalized products define the scope of new apparatuses, allowing essential intensification and miniaturization coupled with processing and construction techniques. In these terms, product design will be realized within an innovative interdisciplinary and cooperative approach encompassing the molecule, its formulation, and the equipment for extraction, reaction, and fractionation.

List of all BioSC Core Groups