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Molecular sorting for resource efficiency: new separation and recycling processes

Decreasing supplies of raw materials, rapidly increasing demand in newly industrializing countries and increasingly tough environmental regulations – all these factors have contributed to the soaring price of raw materials. The only way to resolve this situation is through more efficient recycling management and improved separation and sorting technologies.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany will take on this challenge in a pioneering new project, funded as part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s “Markets Beyond Tomorrow” research programme.

On 20th July 2011 the project “Molecular Sorting for Resource Efficiency”, coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal, Germany, was officially started. The opening reception was attended by over twenty Fraunhofer researchers, representatives of the VDMA and of the president of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

The aim of the project is to close the gaps in material cycles with innovative recycling processes, which will enable resources already present in Germany to be recovered and reused in high-value applications. Starting with low concentrations of finely dispersed materials, or contaminated material flows, the developed processes will recover high-quality materials (of equal value to primary materials) on an industrial level. Examples include highly-transparent glasses, rare metals from slags and gases, and high-quality wood materials from wood scrap. The project will develop techniques for waste streams of glass, wood, composite materials, slags and hot gasses, and by the end of the project the developed processes should also be applicable to other material flows.

“These technologies have a huge application potential”, explains project leader Dr. Jörg Woidasky. “We estimate a market of 2 billion € for these technologies by 2020. Germany has taken on a leading position in this field, and in the commercialization of its developments on both a national and international level.”

The project will run for 3 years, and has received 4.5 million € funding from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Beside the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal, the other partners in the project are the Institute for Silicate Research ISC (Würzburg), the Institute for Wood Research – Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI (Braunschweig), the Institute for Building Physics IBP (Holzkirchen/Stuttgart), the Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS (Dresden), the Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB (Stuttgart) and the Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI (Karlsruhe).

Carolyn Fisher | Fraunhofer-Institut
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