Chemistry and process industry

The chemical industry is one of the most important and research-intensive economic sectors in Germany. Many innovations in the automotive, electrical and electronic, construction and packaging industries would not be possible without the contributions of chemistry. More than all other sectors, the chemical industry is characterized by resource- and energy-intensive processes.

The dependence on the import of raw materials, the limited availability of fossil resources worldwide – even in competition with energy use – and the need to consider the impacts on both climate and the environment mean that our research also emphasizes initiatives to make the use of fossil resources more efficient or to create substitutes for them.

 

Networking and Cooperation
Our distinctive networking collaborations with other institutes of the Fraunhofer Groups for Life Sciences and for Materials and Components – MATERIALS, or the Fraunhofer Nanotechnology, Photocatalysis, Technical Textiles, Polymer Surfaces POLO® and Cleaning Technology Alliances, as well as with universities and other research institutions, guarantee competent approaches even to interdisciplinary tasks.

Functional surfaces and materials

For the surfaces of many materials e.g. industrial components or technical textiles, the desired properties are often different from those that are intrinsic for the bulk material. Fraunhofer IGB is decoupling volume and surface properties by interfacial process engineering. We give surfaces of polymers, ceramics or metals new properties by applying thin layers or creating defined functions on surfaces. For this purpose, we use gas phase processes (CVD, PVD, PECVD), wet-chemical processes or combined processes. For open-pored polymeric foams with functional groups, we developed a single-stage synthesis strategy.

Research focus and projects

Fermentation and biocatalysis

The goal of our work is to develop and optimize biotechnological (fermentative or biocatalytic) processes for the production of chemicals from renewable resources or biogenic residuals. In addition to mild reaction conditions and high specificity, these offer a virtually inexhaustible product diversity. We are also able to achieve optimized transformation processes through coupling with chemical processes. Our range of services includes screening for new chemical catalysts, industrially useful enzymes and microorganisms (bacteria, fungi) as well as the development of production processes for fine and basic chemicals including scale-up and product processing.

Research focus and projects

 

Biobased chemicals

Fraunhofer IGB has successfully developed fermentation and purification processes, for example, for C2 compounds (ethylene, acetic acid, ethanol) and C3 compounds (propylene, propanol, propanediol, propionic aid, lactic acid) as well as for dicarboxylic acids (malic acid and itaconic acid), amino acids and proteins such as thaumatin or bacteriorhodopsin. Based on renewable resources, algal lipids or biogenic residuals, we have successfully demonstrated new ways to produce basic materials (long-chain dicarboxylic acids, fatty acid epoxides, lactams) for plastics production. We have acknowledged expertise in the microbial production of biosurfactants for use as emulsifiers or detergents.

Research focus and projects

 

Biorefinery concepts

One sustainable approach to the production of chemical products involves the most complete possible use of biomass according to the principle of a biorefinery. We have already successfully made use of different agricultural and forestry residuals (straw, wood waste) and organic residuals from a variety of industries (whey, crab shells and insect carapaces, terpenes) as a source of raw material and successfully convert them in fermentative or biocatalytic and combined chemical processes into basic chemicals that are subsequently purified into fine chemicals or biopolymers. Parallel or subsequent use of the residual biomass closes the cycle and increases the overall efficiency.

Research focus and projects

Electrochemical transformation

With the energy revolution and the expansion of regenerative decentralized power generation, cheaper power will be available – weather-dependent – in the future. If this excess electricity accruing in intervals is used flexibly for electrochemical reactions, basic chemicals can be produced sustainably. For this purpose, we are developing catalysts and suitable electrodes, electrolysis processes and equipment. In the Fraunhofer lead project “Electricity as a Raw Material”, for example, Fraunhofer IGB is developing a one-step procedure to produce ethylene in a single electrochemical process step. An electrolysis cell in which hydrogen peroxide can be produced from just water and air is already available as a prototype at the institute.

Research focus and projects

Separation and purification technologies

Substance separation is a key step in many sectors of the chemical and process industry. For upstream processing of raw materials as well as downstream processing of fermentation and synthesis products, Fraunhofer IGB is developing economical procedures and is planning corresponding facilities. The focus is on resource-efficient membrane or electrophysical procedures that simplify multi-stage processing procedures and that are combined, if necessary, with conventional separation methods such as centrifugation, extraction or chromatographic procedures.

Research focus and projects