01.07.2019 – 08:52
Lighter than aluminium and stronger than steel: Innovative materials with carbon fibres made from algae
TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF MUNICH
Corporate Communications Center
This text on the web: https://www.tum.de/nc/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/35546/
High resolution images: https://mediatum.ub.tum.de/1507350
Innovative materials with carbon fibres made from algae
German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds TUM's Green Carbon Project
In combination with granite or other types of hard rock, carbon fibres make possible all-new construction and building materials. Theoretical calculations show: If the carbon fibres are produced from algae oil, production of the innovative materials extracts more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it sets free. A research project spearheaded by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is to further advance these technologies.
The most recent global climate report (IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C) considers manufacturing processes which use more carbon dioxide (CO2) than they release to be an important option to get climate change under control.
The objective of the project started today under the title "Green Carbon" is to develop manufacturing processes for polymers and carbon-based light-weight construction materials based on algae which may be utilised in the aviation and automotive industry, for example.
The development of the various processes is accompanied by technological, economical and sustainability analyses. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) has dedicated funds amounting to around 6.5 million Euro to fund the research at TU Munich.
Microalgae bind carbon dioxide
Due to their fast growth, microalgae like those cultivated in the globally unrivalled technical algae centre at TUM's Ludwig Bölkow Campus south of Munich can actively store the greenhouse gas CO2 in form of biomass. CO2 is mainly bound in sugars and algae oil. These can be used in chemical and biotechnological processes to produce precursors for a variety of industrial processes.
For example, oil-forming yeasts produce yeast oil from the algae sugars, which is a feedstock for sustainable plastics. Furthermore, enzymes can split the yeast oil into glycerine and free fatty acids. The free fatty acids are precursors for products like high-quality additives for lubricants, among others; the glycerine can be turned into carbon fibres.
Sustainable production of carbon fibres
In the further course of the project, the plastics will be combined with the carbon fibres to produce corresponding composite materials. "The carbon fibres produced from algae are absolutely identical to the fibres currently in use in the industry," says project lead Thomas Brück, Professor for Synthetic Biotechnology at TU Munich. "Therefore, they can be used for all standard processes in aviation and automotive production."
Furthermore, carbon fibres and hard rock can be used in a process of the industrial partner TechnoCarbon Technologies to produce novel construction materials. Not only do they have a negative CO2 balance, they are also lighter than aluminium and stronger than steel.
Carbon Capture and Sustainable Utilization by Algal Polyacrylonitrile Fiber Production: Process Design, Techno-Economic Analysis, and Climate Related Aspects. Uwe Arnold, Thomas Brück, Andreas De Palmenaer und Kolja Kuse, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2018 57 (23), 7922-7933, DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.7b04828
Energy-Efficient Carbon Fiber Production with Concentrated Solar Power: Process Design and Techno-economic Analysis. Uwe Arnold, Andreas De Palmenaer, Thomas Brück und Kolja Kuse. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2018 57 (23), 7934-7945, DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.7b04841
Cited in "IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C", Chapter 4: Strengthening and implementing the global response; http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_chapter4.pdf
The chairs of synthetic biotechnology, biochemical engineering, macromolecular chemistry, technical chemistry I and carbon composites of the Technical University of Munich and the industrial partners AHP GmbH & Co. KG, Airbus Defence and Space GmbH, Daimler AG, Fuchs Schmierstoffe GmbH, SGL Carbon GmbH and TechnoCarbon Technology GbR are all involved in the project which has a total volume of about 8.9 million Euro. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research sponsors the project with around 7.1 million Euro in total.
Earlier press releases:
... on algae carbon fibers:
... TUM-algae cultivation center:
High resolution images:
Prof. Dr. Thomas Brück
Technical University of Munich
Werner Siemens-Chair for Synthetic Biotechnology
Lichtenbergstr. 4, 85748 Garching, Germany
Tel.: +49 89 289 13253 - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is one of Europe's leading research universities, with around 550 professors, 41,000 students, and 10,000 academic and non-academic staff. Its focus areas are the engineering sciences, natural sciences, life sciences and medicine, combined with economic and social sciences. TUM acts as an entrepreneurial university that promotes talents and creates value for society. In that it profits from having strong partners in science and industry. It is represented worldwide with the TUM Asia campus in Singapore as well as offices in Beijing, Brussels, Cairo, Mumbai, San Francisco, and São Paulo. Nobel Prize winners and inventors such as Rudolf Diesel, Carl von Linde, and Rudolf Mößbauer have done research at TUM. In 2006 and 2012 it won recognition as a German "Excellence University." In international rankings, TUM regularly places among the best universities in Germany. www.tum.de