Led by BASF, a consortium of companies in the European process industry from the areas of biotechnology, renewable resources, chemistry, process engineering, equipment supply and research organizations have launched a project that aims to decrease production costs for renewable-based products via increasing the efficiency of raw material use and production processes.
The project, called PRODIAS (PROcessing Diluted Aqueous Systems), focuses on “white biotechnology,” which BASF says has the potential to manufacture products more efficiently than with conventional chemical processes.
Partners include: Cargill Haubourdin, France; University of Kaiserslautern, Germany; Imperial College London, Great Britain; Alfa Laval, Sweden; GEA Messo PT, the Netherlands; Xendo, the Netherlands; UPM, Finland, and Enviplan, Germany.
These partners will collaborate to develop cost and energy-efficient technologies for water purification, removal and product-recovery needed to support downstream processing in white biotechnology.
Using biotechnological methods such as fermentation or biocatalysis, in most cases the renewable-based products are produced as part of complex dilute aqueous mixtures from which they have to be purified. This includes the removal of a vast amount of water, making the downstream process energy intensive as it often requires many complex consecutive separation steps and thus hampers the cost-competitiveness of products from renewable resources.
Furthermore, processing methods developed for chemical production are often used which are insufficiently adapted to biotechnological processes.
PRODIAS aims to address these challenges by developing and implementing cost-effective separation and purification technologies tailored for renewable resources in white biotechnology production processes. Its focus is to adapt separation techniques to the need of white biotechnology products and to design hybrid systems combining individual advantages, for example, selectivity and energy efficiency. The bioreactions (fermentations) and biocatalysis by which the valuable products are produced are subject to alteration and optimization, to enable more efficient and resource-saving downstream processing.
The total project budget is about €14 million ($15 million) with the European Union contributing €10 million ($11 million).
Last week BASF and Germany-based carbon company SGL Group announced they have concluded joint research of a new composite material system that aims to enhance the cost-effectiveness of manufacturing thermoplastic carbon-fiber composites, for example in injection procedures and reaction injection molding.