Substituting Raw Material Derived From Petroleum

November 3, 2021

Like cellulose, lignin and fats, proteins are renewable raw materials. Its potential for the chemical industry remains largely untapped. Research teams at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process and Packaging Engineering IVV are collaborating with their partners to change this, with the idea of ​​using the promising techno-functional properties of plant proteins for industrial applications.

The objective of the TeFuProt project is to abandon oil and use more renewable raw materials.

Although plant-based proteins played a critical role in the chemical industry a hundred years ago, as a binding agent or adhesive, for example, their use has declined since the rise of the petrochemical industry.

The partners participating in the TeFuProt project, which is short for techno-functional protein, intend to change all this and obtain proteins for industrial applications from agricultural residues. The objective of this approach to the bioeconomy is to counteract the shortage and long-term price increases of fossil raw materials and to use renewed raw materials as an alternative to oil.

Rape as a source of protein

The processing of agricultural raw materials such as rapeseed produces large amounts of protein. These proteins are a by-product of rapeseed oil recovery, a process that extracts the oil from the seed. Protein-containing by-products, called rapeseed meal and rapeseed press cake, are left behind.

“Until now, this residue has been used mainly as feed in livestock. But this use is limited due to the bitter substates they contain, ”explains Andreas Fetzer, scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for IVV Packaging and Process Engineering in Freising.

Due to their functional properties, such as the ability to form foams, gels and films, and their ability to retain water, the protein fractions of rapeseed cake have enormous potential for a wide range of technical applications. They are ideal as additives for paints, varnishes, adhesives, lubricants, building materials, detergents, and polymers.

“Plant proteins are opening the door to the development of novel, sustainable and bio-based products with improved properties,” explains Fetzer. And this also reduces our dependence on fossil resources and drives climate-friendly production. ‘

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process and Packaging Engineering IVV were tasked with investigating how to isolate proteins from rapeseed meal and rapeseed cake and developing the necessary processes. They also took care of the modification and preformulation of the proteins so that they could be handed over to development partners for testing, either in the form of dry powders or in liquid solution.

Technofunctional properties, such as solubility, foaming and emulsifying behavior, as well as film-forming properties, were also analyzed. In addition to the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and IVV Packaging, ANiMOX GmbH and Naturstoff-Technik GmbH (2014-2017) were commissioned to manufacture and refine the protein.

Alternative binding agents in paints and varnishes

The film-forming properties, in particular, produced convincing results in the tests: “By drying the proteins dissolved in water, to which a bio-based plasticizer was added, in a Petri dish, the water evaporates and the proteins they intersect to form a stable film. Thus, proteins are primarily suitable as alternative binding agents in paints and varnishes, wood stains or parquet coatings that often contain petroleum-derived raw materials.

Acrylates, for example, can be replaced by protein preparations, ”explains Fetzer. Furthermore, proteins show the ability to effectively bind dyes or act as barriers. This demonstrated an added benefit of protein-based coating, especially in the wood industry: The colorants were effectively prevented from “bleeding” out of the wood.

Fetzer and his colleagues were able to recover four types of proteins through four different processes. «We de-oil, crush and dissolve the rapeseed cake in water. The mixture is centrifuged to separate the solids from the liquids. Then we refine the aqueous extract with the dissolved proteins ”, says the scientist when describing the sequence of the process. Recovered protein isolates typically have a protein content greater than 90%.

Opportunity to create groundbreaking innovations

The long-term project work of the 18 partners in total has produced a number of promising products, some of which are already available as prototypes. These include biodegradable films as packaging material for detergent bags, for example, or as plant coatings, as well as fibreboards from production waste, and binders modified with rapeseed protein.

Flame retardant insulating foams for the construction industry or molded foams for packaging, fiber protection and dye transfer inhibitors in environmentally friendly detergents, thickening components for lubricants or binders for lubricating lacquers and additives in cleaning agents. Universal cleaning for wooden surfaces complete the list of innovative solutions. “In many cases, we have managed to integrate proteins into products and generate value-added properties,” says the researcher.

The next steps are to optimize the preparations and make them ready for the market. The long-term goal of the partners is to replace petrochemical-based products with bio-based ones on a large scale and create added value through the use of plant proteins.

Dr. Loony Davis5
 | Website

Born and raised in Brussels in an English family, I have always lived in a multicultural environment. After several work experiences in marketing and communication, I came to Smart Water Magazine, which I describe as the most exciting challenge of my career.
I am a person with great restlessness and curiosity to learn, discover what I do not know, as well as reinvent myself daily, someone who is curious about life and wants to know. I enjoy sharing knowledge.
This is my personal project but I also collaborate in other blogs, it is the case, the most important web on water currently exists in the US, if you are interested you can read my articles here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *