Scaling and piloting of new processes for chemistry and biotechnology

Transferring the manufacturing process to a larger scale is an essential step in bringing new sustainable products to market. With its expertise in scaling up a multitude of processes and its own pilot plants, Fraunhofer IGB supports companies in the market launch of green products. A wide variety of modules are available for scaling up new processes at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes branch in Leuna. Fraunhofer CBP also offers its expertise and infrastructure for the construction of the customer's own demonstration plants.

Accelerating the market launch of sustainable technologies and green products

In light of climate change and a scarcity of resources, the chemical and process industry is also facing a fundamental upheaval. Fossil resources need to be replaced by regenerative resources such as renewable raw materials, biogenic residues or CO2 in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and international dependencies.

Challenges due to the raw material transition and the circular economy

For this resource transition, existing production processes must either be adapted to the new raw material or, if that isn’t possible, they have to be reconstructed. Plant-based biomass, for example, must be fractionated, solvents and process parameters must be adapted and plants must be restructured. At the same time, new methods for quality control and safety assessment of the developed processes and their products are required. In addition, companies are required to increasingly abide the principles of the circular economy.

Scaling and piloting as the key to the market

Scaling plays a key role in the development of new resources for the transformation to a green economy. This is because new processes must work both on a small scale, and also on an industrial level. Pilot plants support companies in scaling up their manufacturing processes and thus in bringing new products to market.

Pilot plants: Sample production, process optimization, industrial plant design

The production of sample quantities, larger product quantities on a kilogram scale for application tests, is often only possible with pilot plants.

These are also essential in order to increase the efficiency and thus the cost-effectiveness of the developed processes. The process data generated during pilot operation can be used to identify weak points in the equipment, improve process control and obtain mass and energy balances. Optimized operating modes, such as the recirculation of solvents or the recovery of process heat, help to save operating resources and reduce costs. Eventually, based on the process data in the pilot plant, the industrial plant can then be designed as economically as possible and investment costs will be minimized. 

© Sven Döring

Various reasons for partnerships with Fraunhofer CBP

© Fraunhofer CBP
  • Scaling of processes developed in the laboratory
  • Provision of data for constructing the next technology stage
  • Integrated process development and optimization, including the integration of external equipment for direct process comparison
  • Process verification and show cases, such as investor rounds
  • Provision of data for techno-economic evaluation and life cycle analysis of processes
  • Synthesis of sample quantities for application tests
  • Joint IP development 

How process optimization works up to the industrial plant

In order to be able to manufacture larger product quantities, newly developed processes are gradually transferred to a larger scale. Upscaling results in differently dimensioned plants with increasing production capacities. Once an idea has been successfully implemented on a laboratory scale, the first technical prototypes are primarily used to test the quality and functionality of the product.

Small industrial scale: Pilot plants for process optimization

Pilot plants are an intermediate size between small prototype plants and large industrial plants. Pilot plants do not represent an enlarged laboratory scale, but rather the later industrial scale, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale. The aim of transferring processes to the pilot scale is therefore to operate the equipment commonly used in industry at a lower capacity, so that the risk of transfer from the laboratory to the industrial plant is minimized. 

The example of fermentation illustrates this clearly: the laboratory tests take place in a shake flask, the subsequent stage is a small laboratory fermenter with a volume of only a few liters. For the pilot scale, fermenters that are also commonly used on an industrial scale are used – except that their volume is smaller.

Pilot plants: bridge between laboratory and industry – Data generation, optimization, configuration of the industrial plant

For the successful transfer to the next industrial dimension, the process is evaluated and optimized in the pilot plant. In the pilot plant, for example, the effect of the apparatus technology on the process, such as the container geometry, agitators or exotherms, becomes noticeable for the first time. Problems with the cultivation of microorganisms or product separation, which could not yet be assessed on a laboratory scale, can thus be resolved.

Fraunhofer IGB – Your partner for scaling processes and technologies

Support all the way to market launch

Fraunhofer IGB develops new processes and supports companies with its expertise and technical equipment in the scaling of processes as well as the design and construction of pilot plants: from technical implementation and commissioning to questions of process safety, regulatory issues, sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

In addition, we provide you with state-of-the-art infrastructure and apparatus technology with our own pilot plants. This not only saves you costs, but also reduces development risks.


Scaling platform with pilot plants at Fraunhofer CBP, Leuna

With its modular reactor and plant technology at the Leuna site, Fraunhofer IGB has a unique interface of the industrial application of biotechnological and chemical processes. This allows us to map complete process chains – from raw material preparation and various material conversion processes to product separation and purification – and to optimize processes on behalf of customers.

This currently includes the areas of lignocellulose biorefinery, oilseed biorefinery, fermentation, chemical conversion and material separation and purification.


Lignocellulose biorefinery

Mild digestion for optimized product properties

To be able to utilize lignocellulosic raw and residual materials to the highest possible quality and obtain optimal product properties, we at Fraunhofer CBP are investigating alternative digestion processes on a pilot scale, in particular the Organosolv process.


Oilseed biorefinery

Complete utilization of rapeseed & co.

At Fraunhofer CBP, the EthaNa process was further developed as a sustainable alternative to oil separation. Furthermore, a pilot plant, in which oilseeds can be processed using mild, ethanolic extraction, was set up.


Scaling chemical processes

for the production of bio- and CO2-based chemicals

Fraunhofer CBP uses chemical processes to develop bio- and CO2-based basic and fine chemicals. Outstanding technical equipment is available for process engineering development and scaling, including various standard reactors (stirred tank and flow tube reactors) from laboratory to pilot scale.  


Scaling biotechnological processes

for the production of sustainable chemicals and food

Industrial biotechnology at Fraunhofer IGB and CBP supports the implementation of innovative biotechnological processes in industry by optimizing and scaling up fermentation processes. To this end, we investigate aspects such as media composition, feeding strategies and common process parameters.


Optimal downstream processing

Versatile systems for optimal downstream processing

Fraunhofer CBP develops the necessary downstream processes to ensure that a product can be processed in the required purity from product mixtures from chemical conversion or culture media during biotechnological conversion and that product samples can be provided for application-related characterization.

How to work with us

Benefit from our expertise, infrastructure and competent staff

Development and piloting on behalf of the customer

We transfer your processes to pilot scale – with our existing plants or by adding the necessary equipment


  • Selection of the right equipment
  • Process design for optimal interaction of all steps
  • Optimization with regard to product yield and quality, material and energy efficiency
  • Support up to transfer to a contract manufacturer or up to system design


Funded research and development projects

We demonstrate new processes in a funded project with a pilot plant


  • Identification of suitable funding measures and necessary partners
  • Development of project structures
  • Possible coordination of joint projects
  • Scaling in existing CBP plants or conceptual design and new contruction of necessary plants
  • Joint marketing and licensing with shared IP

Infrastructure and research operation of customer-owned plants at our center

You use our know-how and our accompanying infrastructure to build your own demonstration plant at our center.


If our own pilot plants do not meet your needs, we offer our expertise in operation and process optimization for your own specific plants, which are built at Fraunhofer CBP under your leadership.

Examples of collaborations



Scaling a sequential extraction process for the production of high-value intermediates from beech wood

Using a hydrothermal process, xylan can be extracted from beech wood. At Fraunhofer CBP, this process was transferred to the 500-liter scale and combined with the ethanolic Organosolv extraction process to additionally extract the lignin and fiber fractions, thus enabling the material use of all wood components. By way of this sequential processing, xylan and lignin can be obtained in a previously unavailable high-purity quality, making applications in the pharmaceutical industry or as food supplements possible.



Development and piloting of pectin extraction from sugar beet residues

To obtain further products from sugar beet in order to increase their material added value, the Pro-Pec project is developing a process with which pharmaceutically relevant pectins can be extracted from processed sugar beet. 


Circular economy of plastics

In April 2022, Fraunhofer CBP launched a R&D project as a direct order from the company PRUVIA. Its aim was to demonstrate the MLM-R® pyrolysis technology developed by PRUVIA for recycling plastic waste. This allows the fossil naphtha, used in plastic production, to be thermochemically recovered from plastic waste, and thus enables a complete circular economy for plastics.

Range of services at a glance

We support our industrial customers in the realization and scaling of their processes with a wide range of services in the following areas:

Process design and dimension

  • Processes and plants – up to demonstration scale
  • Accompanying laboratory development, e.g. with high-throughput screening and analytics in the field of chemical-biotechnological processes
  • Adaptation of the process design, e.g. by transferring from batch to continuous processes
  • Reactor and module design, construction and manufacturing


Technical plants

  • Pilot plants (e.g. power-to-X processes, fuel synthesis, biomass fractionation, fermentation, biocatalysis)
  • Chemical and biotechnological processes up to 10 m3 reactor volume
  • Extensive equipment for downstream processing and product purification


Industrial process demonstration

  • Operation and simulation
  • Provision of sample material up to ton scale
  • Provision of process data
Screw press for pre-dewatering the solid phase after digestion


Fraunhofer Chemistry Alliance

The Fraunhofer Chemistry Alliance pools the complementary expertises of its member institutes in the fields of chemistry, chemical engineering and biotechnology, as well as automation, digitization and regulatory issues. Through interdisciplinary collaboration, the alliance supports industrial customers in the development and scale-up of sustainable, innovative products and processes.

© Fraunhofer CBP
Together with partners from the Fraunhofer Chemistry Alliance, Fraunhofer CBP invited companies to a “Scaling Day” in Leuna, in November 2023. Fraunhofer experts used best-practice examples to show how ideas can be implemented more quickly.


Christine Rasche

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Christine Rasche

Head of Business Area Sustainable Chemistry | Head of Leuna Site (acting)

Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes CBP
Am Haupttor (Tor 12, Bau 1251)
06237 Leuna

Mobile +49 152 06384199

Fax +49 3461 43-9199