Upstream processing of renewable raw materials and biogenic residues


Renewable resources and organic residues – valuable raw materials for biotechnological conversion

Renewable raw materials and residues represent a local, sustainable source for the production of high-quality products. Residues are produced in agriculture and also in industrial processes. Usually the desired component is embedded in a complex matrix of other natural substances and must be removed from it.


Holistic use of all components thanks to a wide spectrum of methods

Our working group pursues the goal of a holistic use of all components. Extraction, isolation or pre-treatment are carried out in such a way as to ensure the recovery or use of all substances while minimizing the flow of by-products. This starts with a comprehensive analysis of the various ingredients. Based on the composition and linkage of the desired substance in the substrate, we decide which tool from our repertoire is to be used for processing. The range of our portfolio includes the application of chemical-physical methods for the fractionation of substrates containing lignocellulose and chitin, for example, through to the enzymatic cleavage of organically bound phosphate.


Target products: platform chemicals, fine chemicals, biobased polymers, hydrogen

In industrial biotechnology, renewable raw materials are used in processed form as substrates for the production of enzymes, platform chemicals, fine chemicals, or general recyclable substances. The same applies to residual materials or waste streams, which − long perceived as a mere burden − can be converted into valuable substances if they are processed accordingly.

One example is polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), which can be produced microbially from a wide variety of residual materials such as molasses or waste fats and oils.

Chitin and chitosan are in fact both mainly obtained from waste streams from fishing, insect protein production or edible mushroom production.

We break down recycled wood or straw using physiochemical methods in order to extract sugars such as glucose or xylose using microorganisms. We use the sugars obtained from lignocellulosic residues (straw and wood) in our fermentative reactions to produce biosurfactance, malic acid or polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA).

In the H2Wood – BlackForest project, we are investigating the conversion of wood sugars into hydrogen using bacteria and are interlinking this process with a method that uses hydrogen-producing microalgae.



Zellen des Brandpilzes Ustilago maydis
© Fraunhofer IGB
Biosurfactants as needle-shaped crystals: obtained from epoxides of native plants.
Coated panels.
Biobased binders for wood-based materials can be obtained from vegetable oils.
Mikrobiell hergestelltes Polyhydroxyalkanoat – bioabbaubares und biokompatibles Biopolymer zur Herstellung von Biokunststoffen.
Microbially produced polyhydroxyalkanoate – biodegradable and biocompatible biopolymer for the production of bioplastics

Range of services

We offer interested parties and customers

  • the analysis of the chemical composition of their residual, waste and renewable raw materials and
  • the subsequent added value of these substrates.

In order to increase the efficiency of the methods used, we rely on computer-aided optimization strategies with strong economic relevance.

Research topics

Insect biorefinery: Using organic waste for generating products from insect proteins, fats, and chitin

Processing of chitin from crab shells and insect skeletons

Pulping of lignocellulose

Saccharification of lignocellulose

Latex and inulin from dandelion roots

Enzymes for the cleavage of phosphate esters into waste materials

Reference projects

October 2021 – October 2024


InBiRa – the insect biorefinery: From the utilization of organic residues and waste to the manufacture of products

In the InBiRa project, an insect biorefinery that converts waste and residual streams into new high-quality products is being built for the first time.
This is achieved using the insect larvae of the black soldier fly. The larvae consist of proteins, fats and chitin, from which new products can be manufactured.

August 2021 – July 2024

H2Wood – BlackForest

Biointelligent hydrogen production from wood and waste wood in the Black Forest

The Black Forest region wants to develop wood waste as a local resource for the decentralized production of biohydrogen as a regenerative energy carrier. To this end, the potential of wood waste for the production of hydrogen and its energetic use is being investigated and two processes for the biotechnological production of hydrogen and co‑products is being developed and demonstrated in an integrated pilot plant at the Black Forest Campus.

May 2018 – April 2022


Development and pilot production of SUStainable bio-BINDer systems for wood-based panels

The SUSBIND Consortium develops, produces and tests biobased binders as an alternative to fossil-based binders currently used for wood-based panel board in furniture mass products

October 2017 – September 2020


Sustainable production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) for packaging materials

Due to the growing awareness of environmental pollution caused by plastics, the demand for environmentally friendly packaging is increasing – especially in the cosmetics and food industry. The aim of the SusPackaging project is therefore to establish a green value chain for the production of bio‑based and biodegradable packaging materials. As part of the project, Fraunhofer IGB is investigating microbial polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which have similar properties to conventional plastics but are biodegradable.

August 2017 – January 2021


Biobased hydrophobic and dirt-repellent finish for the substitution of pPerfluorochemicals (PFCs) on textile surfaces with chitosan derivatives

The aim of the Hydrofichi project is to modify textile surfaces using renewable raw materials in order to replace environmentally harmful and toxic agents that have been used up to now. For this purpose, a chitosan-based hydrophobic finishing of textiles is being developed.


June 2014 – May 2016


AERTOs Biobased Economy (BBE)

The project, led by VTT in cooperation with Tecnalia, had a duration of two years and a budget of 2.6 million euros. For these two years, the project partners have set themselves the goal of advancing the development of a biobased economy in Europe and thereby removing certain technical hurdles in the new value creation chains. In addition, the cooperation between the individual European RTOs (Research and Technology Organisations) involved will be intensified.

July 2013 – December 2016


Functionalized lignin cleavage products as synthesis building blocks for the production of adhesives, coatings, polyurethanes and epoxides

The aim of the Lignoplast project, led by the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes (CBP), is the development of adhesives, coatings, polyurethanes and epoxides based on chemically and enzymatically modified lignins.

January 2013 – January 2015


Sustainable phosphorus recovery from agricultural residues through an enzymatic process

A recovery of phosphorus/phosphate from agricultural residues makes sense from an ecological point of view. PhosFarm as an interdisciplinary European project therefore aims at recovering phosphate in inorganic form from agricultural residues and additionally from waste of the food industry.

March 2011 – March 2014


New production strategy for biosurfactants

Surfactants are an integral part of our daily lives with applications ranging from detergents and cleaning agents to additives in food production or even oil extraction. About 18 million tons of surfactants are produced annually, mostly by chemical means and based on crude oil. One quarter is now produced from the oils of renewable raw materials, usually coconut or palm kernel oil.


May 2010 – March 2014

Lignocellulose biorefinery

Digestion of lignocellulosic raw materials and complete material utilization of the components

The aim of this project, under the direction of DECHEMA, was to develop and establish a process for the complete material use of all components of lignocellulose by obtaining bio-based products based on cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin within a biorefinery.