Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nature’s own chemical plant

11.11.2008
Crude oil is getting more and more expensive, a fact clearly felt by the chemical industry. An alternative source of carbon is biomass, for instance colza and whey, which can likewise be used to produce chemical products.

Petroleum is the feedstock for many products in the chemical industry. However, this fossil fuel is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive. Renewable raw materials are an alternative. But can the likes of bioethanol be obtained from sources other than foods such as sugar cane or cereals? The answer is yes.

Thanks to white industrial biotechnology, chemical substances can also be derived from waste products generated by the food industry, leftover biomass from agriculture and forestry, and residual materials. Researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart are demonstrating how this biotechnical recycling works, using colza, whey and crab shells as examples.

When producing biodiesel from colza oil, raw glycerol is accrued as a byproduct. Scientists at the IGB have now developed a method of converting this raw glycerol into 1,3-propandiol – a chemical base for producing polyesters or wood paint. Until now, 1,3-propandiol has always been chemically synthesized, but it can also be derived from glycerol by certain micro-organisms. Clostridium diolis bacteria, for example, can produce a comparatively high yield of chemical feedstock. However, these bacteria cannot convert raw glycerol. This is because raw glycerol contains fatty acids left over from the colza oil, and these have to be separated out.

“Furthermore, high concentrations of both the glycerol substrate and the 1,3-propandiol product inhibit the growth of the bacteria,” says Dr. Wolfgang Krischke of the IGB, pointing out another challenge in developing this biotechnological process. “We have managed to solve this problem to a large extent by keeping the bioreactor in continuous operation, because once the glycerol has been almost fully converted, it loses its inhibiting effect. In this way, we have achieved a stable process with high product concentrations.” The fatty acids can be converted by yeasts to long chain dicarboxylic acids providing novel building blocks for polymer industries.

One of the byproducts obtained from the manufacture of dairy products is acid whey, which until now has always been disposed of at considerable cost. However, the milk sugar (lactose) contained in the whey can be converted into lactic acid (lactate) with the help of lactic acid bacteria. Lactate not only serves as a preservative agent and acidifier in food production, but can also be used as a feedstock in the chemical industry – for example in the production of polylactides, which are biodegradable polymers. Such polylactic acids are already being used to make disposable crockery and screws for surgical operations.

| alfa
Further information:
http://www.igb.fraunhofer.de
http://www.fraunhofer.de/EN/press/pi/2008/11/ResearchNews112008Topic7.jsp

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New way to look at cell membranes could change the way we study disease
19.11.2018 | University of Oxford

nachricht Controlling organ growth with light
19.11.2018 | European Molecular Biology Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New materials: Growing polymer pelts

19.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Earthquake researchers finalists for supercomputing prize

19.11.2018 | Information Technology

Controlling organ growth with light

19.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>