Fraunhofer UMSICHT presents biobased and circular plastics at K 2-22 trade fair; innovations include chemical intermediates based on inedible coffee oil extracted from coffee grounds

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September 28, 2022 (press release) –

Fraunhofer UMSICHT is developing new materials for the resource-efficient use of plastics. The focus is on bioplastics, a circular plastics economy and strategies for reducing macro- and microplastics in the environment. Fraunhofer UMSICHT presents bio-based and circular plastics on the fair K 2022 in hall 6, booth D67: valuable chemical intermediates from coffee grounds, a film material based on thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU), PLA copounds for technical components and biodegradable mulch films.

In the “InKa” project, for example, researchers at Fraunhofer UMSICHT are extracting a valuable chemical intermediate product from the inedible coffee oil, which is used in the production of additives for plastics. They are also trying to use the deoiled coffee grounds as an alternative raw material for the paper and cardboard industry. “A special challenge in our project is the scale-up of the process steps from laboratory to industrial production. The targeted process as a whole is highly innovative and makes an important contribution to the use of bio-based raw materials in the bioeconomy. On a laboratory scale, we can already see that our concept is working and have already been able to test the additives developed in new material formulations,” explains Inna Bretz, head of the Circular and Biobased Plastics department at Fraunhofer UMSICHT.

X-ray detectable reusable protective clothing
The development of a film material based on thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) and X-ray detectable additives was the goal of the “DetekTPU” project. In food production, it is common to wear disposable protective clothing in order to comply with safety and hygiene regulations. Besides a large amount of plastic waste, there is also the problem that parts of the protective clothing can end up in the food and are not detected there. The material developed is to be used for reusable protective clothing that can be reliably detected by X-ray. This is a previously unsolved challenge for thin plastic films. “The project results so far are promising, and we are currently planning further development steps with our project partner. To this end, the team is to be expanded to include experts from the field of film production”, reports Christina Eloo, group leader for plastics development.

Bio-based plastics for technical components with increased fire risk
Technical components with increased fire risk, for example in the electronics industry, require flame-retardant, heat-resistant and impact-resistant plastics. A large proportion of these are produced on the basis of petroleum, the reserves of which are limited. However, bioplastics often do not yet fully achieve the property level of conventional engineering plastics demanded by the market. The limits lie in particular in fire behaviour, sufficient temperature resistance or impact strength. This is where “TechPLAstic” comes in: PLA compounds for durable products are developed close to the application and the market - taking into account the respective requirements and costs. The application focus is initially on technical products in the electronics and construction sector, such as lights or switches and buttons in building technology.

Mulch films with adapted degradability
Biodegradable plastics are useful in environmental applications where a recycling process is not possible or would be too costly. Examples of this are geotextiles or mulch films. Fraunhofer UMSICHT is researching plastics with adapted degradability that fulfil the desired properties during their service life. In order to investigate and evaluate the changes in the properties of plastics during ageing due to environmental influences, the researchers in the laboratory set the conditions as close to the application as possible. Depending on the product, different substrates (compost, soil, water), different temperatures and UV light can be used.


Funding notes

The project “InKa – Intermediates from industrial spent coffee grounds” is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the framework of the funding programme "National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030" of the Federal Government.

The “DetekTPU” project is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy on the basis of a resolution of the German Bundestag.

The “TechPLAstic” project is funded by the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohrstoffe e. V. (FNR) and with funds from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

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