Chemical processes

This field of work focuses on the process-technological development of chemical processes to produce biobased basic, fine and platform chemicals for further processing in the chemical, pharmaceutical or food industries.

In addition to new process concepts, the optimization of the resource and energy efficiency of existing processes also plays an important role here.

Established processes can be adapted and optimized under ecological and economic aspects. In doing this, we not only consider biobased raw materials and carbon dioxide but also examine conventional processes for manufacturing petrochemical products.

Current R&D topics

  • Functionalization of lignin to aromatic molecule building blocks (e.g. by means of base-catalytic depolymerization or oxidation)
  • Catalytic hydrogenation of biogenic substrates
  • Continuous oligomerization of olefins
  • Process technological development and scaling of chemical processes for the conversion of CO2 and H2 to basic chemicals as well as fuels

Range of services

The range of services extends from representing the process parameters on the laboratory scale through to scaling processes up to pilot plant scale. Highly sophisticated reactions can be realized under high pressures (350 bar) and temperatures (up to 500°C) with the equipment and process technology installed. The following examples should be mentioned: gas phase reactions with hydrogen, oxygen or ammonia as well as reactions in the presence of flammable substances, in a strongly alkaline or acidic medium or in the near- and overcritical aqueous phase.

Process design and plant engineering

Together with our project partners and with the help of modern simulation software (ASPEN) the processes we develop are evaluated with regard to energy and resource efficiency; the further development of processes is therefore facilitated in an efficient way. The piloting of the processes also permits to synthesize relevant product quantities, for example for sampling purposes or the validation of the material flows for subsequent process steps.

Material utilization of lignin

© Sven Döring
Organosolv lignin after precipitation and filtration on the filter press

The basic building blocks of lignin are substituted phenols, mainly guaiacol, syringol and p-hydroxyphenol, which vary in proportion depending on the type of wood. Lignins can therefore be used, for example, as an alternative for petroleum-based phenol in resins and polyurethane compounds or added to plastics in compounds.

Lignin – sustainable source for new materials or aromatic chemicals

We are investigating and scaling up various processes for the modification and depolymerization of lignin that preserve or enhance its structure and functionality. In this way, new, previously inaccessible aromatic structures with new functionalities and thus a new performance spectrum are being identified, which can be used in a wide range of industrial applications.  

  • Lignins
    • Organosolv lignin
    • LignoBoost Kraft lignin
    • Lignosulfonate
  • Oligomers from base catalyzed depolymerization of lignin
    • Oligomers from LignoBoost Kraft lignin
    • Oligomers from lignosulfonate
    • Oligomers from Organosolv lignin
  • Monomeric oils from lignin
  • Modification of lignin and lignin oligomers
    • Acrylation with methacrylic acid to reactice lignin derivatives
    • Oxidative depolymerization to obtain carboxyl-rich oligomers
    • Production of non-polar lignin derivatives

In the cleavage of lignin, we can adjust the molar mass as well as the functionality of the oligomers and oil fractions obtained according to application requirements. Depending on the desired specification, we provide companies with oligomers and oil samples in sample quantities and also support them in application-related investigations.


Brochure "Material use of lignocellulose"

Process development and scale-up

Utilization of plant oils

Domestic plant oils represent an alternative source of raw materials to fossil resources. We develop and optimize processes for the processing of oils, the recovery of synthetic building blocks and their further modification, for example, into epoxy resins, hydrophobing agents, amines or lubricants.

Biogenic epoxy resin systems

So far, the adhesives such as thermosetting epoxy resins, which consist of a resin and a hardener component, are based on petroleum. An alternative for the resin component are plant oil epoxides, such as from linseed or dragon head oil. An epoxy resin with a biogenic content of 85 percent and a curing time of less than 5 minutes at room temperature could be obtained by using bio-based acids as the hardener component.

Electricity-based fuels and chemicals

Windmill and solar cells.

Power-to-X projects are increasingly moving into the focus of R&D in the course of the energy transition, as surplus electricity from renewable energy generation can also be used for the electrochemical production of basic chemicals. The use of renewable energies is thus no longer limited to the electricity sector, but is increasingly expanding to the chemical sector. In this way, molecules previously obtained chemically from crude oil and natural gas can be substituted by chemically identical molecules obtained from CO2, water and renewable energy.

A current focus is the use of "green" hydrogen in sustainable synthesis processes, e.g. for the chemocatalytic conversion of CO2 into platform chemicals and fuels.

Synthesis of green methanol on behalf of customers

In the SynLink project, a process for the production of methanol as a fuel from electrolytically generated CO2-rich synthesis gas was developed and piloted at Fraunhofer CBP. Fraunhofer CBP thus has the expertise to carry out methanol syntheses for interested companies and organizations on both a laboratory and pilot scale.

Fraunhofer Hydrogen Lab Leuna

At the Leuna chemical site, technologies for generating green hydrogen are combined with an excellent infrastructure of gas pipelines and gas storage facilities.

Chemical use of green H2

In partnership with the CBP, the green hydrogen produced at the Hydrogen Lab Leuna can be used on-site for the sustainable synthesis of chemical feedstocks and fuels.

Reference projects

Flexibilization of the chemical industry