Bioprocess engineering

The object of the working group is the development of biotechnological processes for the production or recovery of industrially relevant materials, such as basic chemicals, fine chemicals, biogenic materials, but also, for example, metallic raw materials.

The processes are based on the biological activity of microorganisms, especially anaerobic bacteria or enzymes. Depending on the problem and application, process development includes the enrichment and isolation of suitable bacteria, identification and purification of technically applicable enzymes, development of new reactor concepts and biotechnical processes on laboratory and pilot plant scale as well as downstream processing.

The starting materials are renewable raw materials, but above all organic residues from agriculture, the agricultural industry, the food, paper, pharmaceutical and chemical industries and waste management. The focus is on residual material flows that have not yet been recycled in a value-adding manner and/or represent an environmental burden.

Fields of research

Anaerobic biotechnological processes

With the help of bacteria, basic chemicals such as lactic acid, ethanol, propanediol, ethylene are produced mainly in anaerobic processes from defined industrial residue streams such as whey or from the cellulose or hemicellulose fraction from the lignocellulose biorefinery.

Gaseous substrates

Gases such as biogas or synthesis gas are used as substrates to produce basic chemicals or biopolymers such as polyhydroxy fatty acids. In the utilization of biogas (mixture of methane and CO2) methanotrophic, i.e. aerobic microorganisms are used, in the utilization of synthesis gas (mixture of CO and H2) anaerobic bacteria are used.

Enzyme-technical processes

Technical enzymes developed at Fraunhofer IGB are used, for example, to produce basic chemicals such as formaldehyde, methanol, formic acid and methyl formate from biogas. The intermediate product formaldehyde can be either produced chemically or by enzyme technology.

Real-time mass spectrometer

A measurement technique has been developed that allows volatile substances to be quantitatively measured online simultaneously in the gas phase and liquid phase using a mass spectrometer. This measurement technique is adapted and further developed for a wide range of industrial processes.

Production and recovery of metallic resources with biotechnological processes

Bioleaching processes use bacteria to mobilize metals from spoil heaps or waste. Our focus is on the extraction of dissolved metals by biological processes such as biosorption (adsorption to microorganisms or biological materials), bioaccumulation (uptake and storage of metals in cells) or bioprecipitation (precipitation of metals by the activity of microorganisms).

Protein analysis and purification of proteins from fermentation broth or extracts

The group has chromatography equipment for analytical and preparative work in the field of protein analysis and purification of proteins. Examples of work performed are the analysis and purification of interferons, monoclonal antibodies and blood clotting factors from cell culture supernatants and the purification of the natural sweetener thaumatin from plant extracts.