New Research Lab “Biobased Products” in Graz 

Don´t waste biomass such as algae, wood, or even food waste, but use every part of them. The new NAWI Graz Central Lab “Biobased Products”, which was officially launched today, Monday the 3rd of February 2014, aims to facilitate the complete material utilisation of biomass. Interdisciplinary work groups from TU Graz, Uni Graz, and JOANNEUM RESEARCH are joining forces to further advance the exhaustive use of biorelevant materials.

Joining forces to optimise the use of valuable biomass. The new NAWI Graz Central Lab “Biobased Products” unites scientists from TU Graz, Uni Graz, and JOANNEUM RESEARCH from the disciplines of chemistry, biology, process engineering, and biotechnology and is dedicating its efforts to the topics of biorelevant materials and processes. In the presence of Kristina Edlinger-Ploder, a member of the provincial government, Uni Graz vice chancellor Christa Neuper and TU Graz vice chancellor Harald Kainz officially launched another building block of the NAWI-Graz cooperation.

Utilise biomass completely
If, for example, you want to use fibrous plants, hardwood, or coniferous wood as a raw material base for various synthesis processes, it becomes necessary to initiate a procedure to break up the rigid structure. The bad news so far: With current processes, thermal and chemical strain on the raw material causes up to 50 percent of the material to be lost as an unusable by-product. This is where the research goals of the Central Lab “Biobased Prodcts” come into play. Emphasis lies in the development of new technologies which enable raw materials such as algae or plant fibres to be fully utilised to produce and isolate natural materials, active ingredients, and various base chemicals.

Meeting challenges with an interdisciplinary approach
“Our goal as the Central Lab is basically to isolate these very valuable biological by-products using suitable technologies and to use them – and to be more specific, the priority is to use the materials themselves and not utilise them to generate energy through burning. Something that is really central to this is that the yield or quality of the main product cannot be reduced,” Matthäus Siebenhofer of TU Graz, and one of the NAWI Graz Central Lab directors, explained.

Sigurd Schober of the Uni Graz discussed further: “What is needed are new chemical material-transforming, thermal, and biotechnological basic operations and combinations that can be integrated into the value chains that have already been established. This is a challenge that can only be met with an interdisciplinary approach spanning different departments and possibly even universities.”

Herbert Böchzelt and Reinhard Padinger of external NAWI Graz cooperation partner JOANNEUM RESEARCH summarise: “Concretely, the lab´s aim is to configure the biological, chemical, and procedural basis in such a way that non-edible biomass as a raw material can be efficiently transformed into products and the material properties of residual material can be used.”

Infrastructure is the Clincher
“The launch today of NAWI Graz Central Lab ´Biobased Products´ is the expression of the extremely fruitful cooperation between TU Graz and Uni Graz, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary today, and remains very unique,” university vice chancellor Christa Neuper and TU Graz vice chancellor Harald Kainz both emphasised in unison. They also stressed that: “Top research calls for top facilities. Without an infrastructure basis for research, especially in the technical natural sciences field, it would be impossible to make advances and develop new technologies that can be used industrially.”

The Central Lab “Biobased Products” has the newly renovated technical centre, which also opened today, of the TU Graz at its disposal and can also use the security lab at the Uni Graz where experiments with the typical laboratory scope can be carried out. Financing for the Central Lab is coming in part from the NAWI Graz funds of both universities, JOANNEUM RESEARCH is participating through the provision of infrastructure.

The Central Labs of NAWI Graz
Central Labs bring numerous research facilities united by a common theme together in one place where they can be used by all NAWI Graz research groups. This improves the workload on devices, shortens measuring times, and makes the acquisition of expensive devices thinkable. The Central Lab „Biobased Products“ is run perfectly by Central Labs-Kleeblatt of NAWI Graz and complements the Central Lab „Water, Minerals and Rocks“, the Central Lab „Environmental, Plant and Microbial Metabolomics” and the Central Lab „Graz Cell Informatics & Analyses (GRACIA)“.

More information: 

University of Technology Graz
Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Matthäus Siebenhofer
Institut for chemical progress engineering and environmental technologies
Tel.: +43 316 873 7480

Karl-Franzens-University Graz
Mag. Dr.rer.nat. Sigurd Schober
Institut for chemical Science
Tel.: +43 316 380 5327

Mag. Dr.rer.nat Herbert Böchzelt, Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Reinhard Padinger
Institut Ressources
Research Unit: Energy and bioresources
Tel.: +43 316 876 2410