In general, the question arises as to which biogenic raw materials are available for sustained material utilization in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany and Europe. As regards energy and resources, beet pulp can be produced efficiently, as sugar factories employ cogeneration to produce energy and the waste heat is used very efficiently as a source of energy. Sugar beet pulp, however, has a composition which differs from commonplace plant fibers or agricultural products such as starch and wood: cellulose, hemicellulose and pectins are present in similar proportions, whilst lignin is only present in small amounts. This necessitates modifications to the processing procedure.
Production concepts and applications
On the basis of cooperative ventures with several regional companies along the value-creation chain - from the raw material to the end products - technical and economic questions concerning feasibility are to be answered within the joint project. These include process engineering, formulation development and testing of the produced composite materials.
At the Fraunhofer WKI, we are working on the conditioning of the beet pulp by means of thermomechanical procedures. Amongst other things, we are addressing the application of the refiner used in the wood sector and processing in composite materials. The Fraunhofer UMSICHT team is examining the possibility of utilizing beet pulp in plastic films, whereby the conditioning of the beet pulp is presenting a challenge as regards its applicability within the micrometer range - foils are often only 20 μm thick. A conceivable application for this would be, for example, mulching films for agriculture.