Focus of our work is the integrated assessment of technical systems, especially in the energy context. Based on the principle of sustainable development, indicators relevant for the assessment and governance of technical systems in accordance with social and political objectives are analyzed and developed. Possible instruments for the realization of these operative processes are analyzed with respect to their suitability. Alternative pathways are modelled using computer-based methods. More specifically, these include national energy supply systems, e.g., in the context of the German “Energiewende” (Energy Transition), infrastructures for the supply with electricity, gas and hydrogen, as well as process chains such as, e.g., CO2-sequestration, -utilization, and –storage, batteries or manifold emerging technologies for Power-to-X.
The Institute’s competences in natural and engineering sciences have recently been expanded by approaches from the social and political sciences. This disciplinary broadening allows the integration of the nexus topic for energy, water and food. This procedure overrides the isolated analysis of energy systems towards realigning future developments in accordance with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Green Economy, and thus offers a strong reference to the Bioeconomy Science Center.
The applied methods originate from engineering and economic sciences as well as from social and political sciences. This approach therefore reflects the interdisciplinary claim of systems analyses. The works are to a large extent relevant for governance processes and occur in close cooperation with political institutions such as, e.g., the UNEP for SDG, the IEA for future technologies in the energy sector, as well as Ministries, Parliaments and Businesses.
The FocusLab Bio² deals with the development of a process for the production of biosurfactants, whereby only biomass (e.g. sugar beet pulp or molasses) will be used. On the basis of organisms such as the bacterium Pseudomonas putida and the fungus Ustilago Maydis (both non-pathogenic to humans) so-called rhamnolipids and mannosylerythritol lipids should be produced. Possible applications are fields like medicine or cosmetics. Each of the involved FocusLab partners brings in its technical, biological and economic expertise. The IEK-STE uses its system analytical competences for the evaluation of ecological, economic and social aspects. For this purpose an Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) is carried out. Starting with a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the main processes including fermentation, separation, purification and concentration steps as well as upstream and downstream process chains such as biomass cultivation or waste management are considered. Aspects of financial costs are focused by a Life Cycle Costing (LCC). Social effects of the considered process chain are addressed by an s-LCA Social Life Cycle Assessment (s-LCA). In its entirety the LCSA contributes to a total evaluation of high quality biosurfactant-products under sustainability aspects.