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The project “Raw Materials, Recycling, and Energy Provision” takes a closer look at processes before and after the production of natural fibre composites (NFC). This includes the extraction and bio-transformation of natural fibres, and the recycling and energy recovery of their composites. The objectives of the undertaking are being implemented through three focal research areas:

  • Manufacture of renewable raw materials from vegetable biomass with defined properties (Prof. Bernd Haschke);
  • Recycling of NFC waste for new materials (Prof. Jürgen Schoenherr, https://itn.hszg.de/);
  • Provision of energy through the recovery of energy stored in natural fibres and NFC residues (Prof. Tobias Zschunke).

Natural fibres are obtained through resource-efficient and economically viable extraction processes from regionally available vegetable materials and are subsequently biotechnologically modified. Organic residues produced during the extraction of fibres are separated and metabolized in a newly designed packed-bed bioreactor. The inorganic components in the waste water (eg phosphate) are separated, purified and reclaimed. Short fibres are recovered from the digestate for further use.

Waste-free treatment technologies for the recycling of NFC products and materials are being developed and optimized. Bio- and antropogenic components in NFCs are separated from each other by the pre-sorting of products and using state-of-the-art sensing and data processing technologies (eg near-infrared sorting (NIR sensors), electronic sorting, density sorting), in order to use them again in NFC production.

We plan to convert refractory non-recyclable substances into thermal energy. In order to achieve a decentralized and self-sufficient supply of energy, we will develop and establish small-sized plants for the combustion of energy-rich fuels which are otherwise ill-suited for conventional energy technology. This requires R&D work on firing technology, modelling, and exhaust gas treatment.

All three focal research areas will therefore shed a light on the environmental framework of the overall project and identify the prospective economic advantages. A stable transfer of data and knowledge between all stakeholders ensures that all fundamental questions are answered taking into account practical requirements. The inclusion and cooperation with partners from the world of science ensures that scientific requirements and standards are observed. Ultimately, the subproject has been designed to lay down the starting conditions for other impulse projects during the intensification phase in the context of the “UAS Impulse Programme” (beginning in 2021).