ThyssenKrupp expands R&D in biochemicals

ThyssenKrupp inaugurated its multi-purpose fermentation plant for the continuous production of bio-based chemicals in Leuna, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. This is the first such plant in Europe. Built at a cost of around EUR 20M, the facility will enable ThyssenKrupp to expand its research and development activities further in the area of biochemicals based on renewable raw materials. Among other things, these biochemicals are used as starting materials for biodegradable plastics such as polylactic acid (PLA) and polybutylene succinate (PBS).

Bioplastics are ideal for processing into packaging materials, films and textiles. It is expected that some 4.5Mt of polyethylene (PET) a year will be replaced by bioplastics in the coming years, helping reduce environmental impact and conserve resources.

Secretary of state Marco Tullner from Saxony-Anhalt’s Ministry of Science and Economic Affairs believes the investment will further strengthen Leuna’s position as a centre for chemicals, “Saxony-Anhalt has evolved into an innovative business location. The opening of the ThyssenKrupp facility in Leuna shows that we have created clear advantages here for future technologies.”

An interdisciplinary team of engineers and scientists from ThyssenKrupp’s plant technology business worked for five years to develop a licensable process for the production of lactic acid. The company’s technical centre for research into biochemicals was relocated from Leipzig to Leuna in August 2012. The multi-purpose fermentation plant will enable ThyssenKrupp to test its laboratory-developed fermentation and processing technologies on an industrial scale. More than 1,000t of biochemicals such as lactic acid and succinic acid can now be produced at this facility annually.

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