Scientists working in the thematic area "Environmental Engineering and Biotechnology" work on procedures and technologies that can be used for a decentralized production of platform chemicals and energy sources from renewable raw materials as well as for removing the risk element from pollutants in natural and technical ecosystems. They therefore pursue the goal of closing material cycles and preventing or treating unwanted by-products. They value the micro-biological and biochemical attributes of nature and promote so-called "nature-based solutions".
They use renewable sources of carbon, non-food biomass, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, solar radiation and electrical energy and skilfully link synthesis processes with utilisation concepts for waste, energy and (waste-) water. It is thereby imperative to acquire detailed knowledge about which microbial processes are behind which substance conversions and how beyond the realms of biology, chemical and physical methods can be implemented. To make biotechnological production procedures and processes suitable for industry, ways need to be discovered that make them more efficient and more flexible.
With the Centre for Biocatalysis in Central Germany (MIKAT), a strategic network is coming together for bioprocess engineering, photo reactors and alternative raw materials.
In the context of projects and case studies, scientists are developing unique solutions, for example an integrated technological concept that enables them to split water through the means of artificial (bio)inorganic photosynthesis and natural catalysts, allowing the resulting hydrogen to be used for supplying energy to detached houses in a decentralised and self-sufficient manner. Other energy sources such as biogas or electricity as well as platform chemicals should be produced on the basis of micro-biological and electrical biocatalytic processes.
To help with the degradation of pollutants in technical and natural systems, researchers are focusing mainly on natural microbiological or plant-based procedures, which (if necessary) can be supported by physical-chemical processes.
Furthermore, for the extraction of mineral resources and the recovery of valuable substances such as metals, rare earths or organic acids from waste streams or unused mineral sources, it is biotechnological concepts that show the most favourable eco-balance for research and industry. However, to find out just how ecological, marketable and valuable these procedures and concepts are in reality, they still need to be analysed and addressed.