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Politics Something is

Politics Something is Regrowing! Ministry ensures sustainable biobased plastic and raw material support by funding innovations By: Gabriele Peterek Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. Gülzow, Germany Former farmhouse and new building Since 1993 the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. (FNR: Agency for renewable resources) has been promoting research, development, demonstrations and public relations in the field of renewable resources, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) with a budget of 53 million Euros (2011). Currently the FNR funds 230 projects in the field of industrial use of renewable resources, which in total represent grants of 62.6 million Euros. The bigger part of these projects is in the field of biobased plastics and raw materials: thermoplastics and thermoset, natural and chemical fibres, natural rubber products and products such as paints, lacquers, coatings and polymers which impart special product qualities. Thereby the biobased polymers are not only produced by modification of natural biopolymers but also by synthetic polymers based on renewable resources. Funding Priorities The FNR, on behalf of the BMELV, is in constant dialogue with representatives of industry and science. One result of this dialogue is that the FNR creates funding priorities for specific themes that clearly describe the objectives. In the current ‘Biobased Polymers and Natural Fibre Reinforced Composites’ priority list the traffic sector, sport and household goods, office supplies and the electrical industry are named as target markets with high potential. The development of epoxide, polyester and phenolic resins, polyurethanes and thermoplastic elastomers, is required for these markets. New functional raw materials for the industry can be developed from cellulose, starch, lignin and pectin – natural polymers, often with specific qualities. It is necessary to modify the whole production chain, for example the process and the tool development and the semi-finished goods production. Altogether the application alternatives of biopolymers are to be expanded, including biobased materials already existing. A biopolymer, which occurs in large amounts as a byproduct during pulp production, but is used industrially only in low amounts, is lignin. The reasons for this are the huge difficulties in process and application technologies. Therefore, the ‘Industrial Use of Lignin’ funding priority targets the development of a market-oriented technology for the increased use of lignin. The focal point of the priority is the development of innovative techniques for a selective and cost-efficient conversion of lignin to marketable products. Highlights from project funding At present numerous innovations are funded with the aid of grants from the BMELV. For example a procedure for the total chemical extraction of lignocellulose to provide the three fractions (cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin) for the development of high-grade products. Based on the results the FNR is currently funding the construction of a lignocellulose- 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/11] Vol. 6

Politics BioConcept-Car III (Photo: FOUR MOTORS GmbH) biorefinery in a pilot scale. The aim of this project is to convert the procedure based on the organosolv extraction into a cost-effective, practical process and to establish the total industrial use of all by-products from fractionated lignocellulose within the biorefinery. The ‘ERA-IB: C. glutamicum as platform organism for new and efficient production processes’ joint research project has Corynebacterium glutamicum in its focus. The aim is to use C. glutamicum, which is an important organism for the production of amino acids, to optimise the production of basic chemicals and organic building blocks for white biotechnology. Since May 2011 the FNR has been supporting the further development of the ‘BioConcept-Car’. The aim of this project is the development and realization of components for the automotive sector and motorsport using of biobased polymers. The components are tested under the extreme conditions of the real racing business. The extracted results are used for further optimization of the components. The approach to testing a biobased racing car body under extreme conditions is aimed at destroying the doubts about quality and clearing the way for biobased materials in normal cars. (For the history of the BioConcept-Car see bM 01/2007 and 01/2010) The ‘Models for the practical usage of natural fibre reinforced injecting moulding materials in the automotive industry’ joint research project also focuses on the automotive industry. The project started in June 2011. On behalf of the BMELV the FNR is funding projects to establish biobased polymers in the market, for example the ‘Biopolymer Database’. Meanwhile more than 100 producers and more than 600 different biopolymers with applications and processing data are listed in this database. Therefore, the database is helping to abolish the great barriers to the market introduction of biopolymers. At the database is available on the Internet (for the moment still free of charge). The summaries and reports of all funded projects are available at the website of FNR. All of the funded projects are accompanied by well-directed public relations and consumer information. Where next? Biobased plastics and raw materials are an important building block for a sustainable economy. And they are our only future alternative to mineral oil based plastics. Therefore, they are the only alternative for guaranteed and affordable support in the future. On the one hand the market share of biobased plastics and raw materials is only in single figures, but on the other hand one can feel an enormous boost occurring in the market. Its drive comes from the growing relevance of themes such as sustainability and the need to reduce the production of CO 2 , not only for the producers but also for the consumers. But this market boost is also the result of a persistent funding policy that has focused for many years on the development of technical, high-valued biobased plastics and raw materials. In this sense the FNR will build up its funding efforts in the field of biobased plastics and raw materials and will focus more than ever on optimizing the framework requirements for the use of biobased plastics and raw materials. Currently a product database for consumer groups such as end users and local authorities is in development. The database will be available in autumn. Projects to spread the knowledge, to connect the different groups involved, to increase consumer information and to develop new, innovative products are in preparation. bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/11] Vol. 6 47

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