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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-04-01 - 2023-03-31

The major aim of BelCel project is to develop a biotechnological enzyme-based modification process for natural lignocellulose stem fibres (e.g. flax and hemp). This is driven by the desire to replace the widespread use of cotton as one of the most widespread. Currently, cotton represents the profitable non-food source of cellulose fiber with production levels at ca. 26 million tons in 2018 providing half of all textiles. Unfortunately cotton is becoming environmentally unsustainable due to negative environmental impacts resulting from the use of agrochemicals especially pesticides as well as the consumption of water (leading to water scarcity, pollution and water contamination). Considering the strong demand in bio-based economy and sustainable developments, the usage of natural fibres is considered to make significant contributions to the enhanced eco-efficiency of textile industry. Flax fibres are known as favourable to human skin, and linen clothing positively influences physiological parameters, guaranteeing optimal comfort for users. With regards to advance usages, flax fibres find applications in high performance composites as alternative to glass fibres due to its unique property combination in tensile strength, deflection or its resistance to breaking, twisting and compression as well as vibration absorption. Another important renewable fibre is derived from hem which is easily adaptable to all types of soil. Traditionally, hemp fibre is used to make ropes, paper, but also in the textile industry, building insulation and as reinforcements in technical composites. Thus, from both ecological and technical point of view, lignocellulosic natural fibres are recognised as true alternative to cotton in the fields of conventional and technical textiles with very high potential. In the past, many efforts are made to chemically modify lignocellulosic natural fibres in order to change their structure and properties, however only with limited successes with respects to achieve defined fibre structure and change fibre processability. During the last decade, a big number of research activities on enzymatic modification of natural fibres was recognised, however, there is still no breakthrough achieving well controlled fibre structure. The project will provide essential scientific knowledge in the design and control of the biotechnological modification process for lignocellulose fibres on the basis of enzymatic catalysed reactions to the scientific partners UIBK and BOKU. It will provide the access to a new technology platform in natural fibres to the industrial partners GTAG and OTTO and possibilities in new bio-based products for the industrial partners EISS and INNC. The technology will significantly contribute to debottleneck the issue with the fibre softness and processability of stem fibre, thus enhance the usage of these European bio-based sources and enable a better utilisation of natural fibres and broaden their applications.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-06-01 - 2023-05-31

Currently, the bio-economy relies mostly on sugar-based transformations, requiring complex pre-treatment, in particular for the use of second-generation feedstocks. Moreover, organic waste streams generated in urban areas, or in agriculture, remain heavily underused and valorization options are limited. To increase the application of organic waste as input material for the bio-economy, a completely novel approach for pre-treatment is required. This project will develop an innovative pre-treatment platform to allow the use of organic waste streams as input for the carboxylic acid platform – as an alternative to the sugar platform –, as well as a fiber platform. The carboxylic acid platform, in which short and medium chain carboxylic acids produced from easily accessible biomass are the target intermediate, is key to the development of new biobased value chains, with product applications as chemicals, biomaterials and feed. The additional valorization of the fibrous biomass minimizes side stream formation, and expands the product range. Overall, pre-treatment of biomass to feed in the carboxylic acid and fiber platform will create an environmental and economic added value.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-01-01 - 2020-12-31

Due to the permissible nutrient loads on agricultural land per hectare and year, biogas plants increasingly rely on digestate treatment to reduce the volume and concentrate most important nutrients. As with sewage sludge, the flocculant polyacrylamide is generally used to separate the fine particles of the fermentation residue. Since polyacrylamide is synthetically produced and is not biodegradable or even difficult to break down, its use, especially in Germany at present, leads to great discussions regarding its effects on humans and the environment. Biogas plant operators strive to produce a high-quality, marketable fertiliser by processing fermentation residues. Therefore, many plant operators want to avoid or minimize the use of polyacrylamide as flocculant in general and fall back on alternative, natural flocculants such as starch or chitosan. Due to the influences on humans and the environment, the present project proposal aims at the substitution of synthetic (polyacrylamide) by natural biodegradable polymers (starch, chitosan) and the general optimization of "flocculation" to reduce polymer consumption.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations