At Fraunhofer ICT we meet all these requirements through the development of modern process technologies. A considerable part of our work is exclusive, commissioned by industrial customers. A successful approach often involves a paradigm shift from discontinuous to continuous processing. For example, continuous processing involving micro-structured equipment is a key element in process design and intensification. It enables safe processing in new processing windows (for example high temperatures, high pressures, high concentrations, short reaction times) that are difficult or impossible to achieve using classical methods, and in which chemical reaction processes can be optimized from a technical and economic perspective. These are often synthesis steps used in the production of precursors or products in the field of fine and specialty chemistry.
In addition, we are systematically extending continuous processes to further unit operations and new application fields. These include in particular the intensification of downstream processing (extractive purification under different pressure regimes, reactive separation, emulsion splitting), the sizecontrolled production of nanoparticles and microcapsules, the development of environmentally-friendly catalytic processes (also phase transfer catalysis) and electrochemical syntheses, and the intensification of multiphase reaction processes (gaseous/liquid, liquid/liquid).
An important tool in process design is cutting-edge process analysis techniques, some of which have been developed in-house. We are making significant progress in the development and adaptation of fast spectroscopic and calorimetric process analysis, which can be used to monitor the dynamics of chemical processes with a high temporal and spatial resolution. The techniques often yield kinetic, mechanistic and safetyrelated data for optimized process design. The rapid availability of comprehensive process analytical data not only enables process development times to be drastically shortened, but also allows the increasing application of these data in the digitalization of chemical reaction processes.
Our comprehensive know-how in the field of explosive technology means that we also have advanced competences in the safety-related design and operation of hazardous (explosive or toxic) processes. In the development of high-pressure processes we also benefit from our long-standing experience in the processing of supercritical fluids. In terms of process safety and stability, tailored process monitoring and control is a core element of our development work. Our capacity to scale up synthesis and increase throughput in multipurpose, mini plant and pilot units developed in-house means that we can prepare larger quantities of substances for testing, and examine safety and economic aspects using realistic operating parameters and scales.
Renewable raw materials
For several years now, Fraunhofer ICT has been using renewable raw materials in process engineering. Our biorefinery processes have been specifically developed and extended from a bioeconomic perspective, to overcome obstacles in their industrial adaptation through targeted component developments. This includes in particular continuous reactor systems along the process chain up to the finished product. These processes utilize the feed materials wood, fats and oils, carbohydrates and other biomass materials which do not compete with food production.
The catalytically supported activation of CO2 (from the air) to generate short-chain alcohols within ongoing PTL (powerto- liquid) processes is one recent development in the field of continuous process control.
We also investigate the industrial use of lignins, especially those which are a waste product of the paper industry. Industrial applications are already emerging in the field of adhesives and the substitution of bitumen in road construction, which show high economic potential. Some biopolymers are hard to degrade, so recycling processes are attracting increasing attention in this field. They enable biopolymers to be reused within closed material loops. To this end, Fraunhofer ICT has developed processes for the mechanical and chemical recycling of PLA (polylactic acid) plastics.
All process developments are evaluated in economic terms, in particular downstream processes to purify the end products. Life-cycle analyses (LCA) are carried out, which take account of both cost effectiveness and resource consumption.