Areas of competencePhoto: Manuel Gutjahr
The WG Bioconversion researches on the production of various basic and special chemicals from biogenic raw materials or residues in partly continuous bioprocesses. These biobased chemicals can be further processed into bioplastics such as polylactic acid (PLA). The material flows (raw materials or residues) often occur decentrally and sometimes in relatively small quantities. Hence, there is enormous potential for optimisation in the use of seasonally and regionally changing input streams and efficient and competitive processing technologies have to be developed. The provision of product samples for further testing and processing contributes to adding new value to renewable raw materials in the sense of the circular economy.
The development or optimisation of the fermentation processes requires various work steps that have to be modified depending on the nature and composition of the feedstock.
The process steps in detail:
- Finding and characterising suitable microorganisms
- Processing and separation of a wide variety of residues from agriculture ( crop production and animal husbandry), food processing (e.g. fruit and vegetable waste) and other industries (e.g. dairies, sugar and starch factories) or municipalities (household waste) in accordance with requirements
- Pre-treatment (digestion and hydrolysis) to release the fermentable carbohydrates
- Biotechnological conversion of the various sugars (especially pentoses and hexoses) into the desired fermentation products
- Separation and purification of the resulting compounds (downstream processing).
This requires the collaboration of many different disciplines, such as microbiology, biochemistry, (bio)process engineering, measurement and control technology, plant and apparatus engineering, and analytics.
Research work is carried out at different scale levels: from laboratory to pilot scale, from basic research to subsequent industrial application.
In addition to specialised laboratories, the WG Biobased products operates a Pilot Plant designed as a biorefinery for research purposes.