In de spotlight: EMPHATI brengt PHA-pioniers samen

Chemport Europe wijde in mei een artikel aan het project EMPHATI, waar de BIO Cooperatieve aan deelneemt. Lees hieronder het hele artikel!

EMPHATI Brings Together PHA Pioneers

The biodegradable plastic PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) has a promising future. More and more organizations and companies are recognizing the significant advantages of this natural plastic, which can provide solutions to the global issues posed by fossil-based plastics. The key question is: which PHA-based products are promising?

This is one of the critical issues in the EMPHATI project, which is ongoing in Northern Netherlands and Northern Germany. EMPHATI is connected to a species fund that supports feasibility studies, practical research, and pilot projects. This is intended to accelerate the development of new sustainable and environmentally friendly products.

And this is a positive development, according to Sytze Keuning, a board member of the BIO Cooperative, which advocates for entrepreneurs in the northern bio-economy. “We are one of the initiators of the project. PHA has great potential, especially if we can strengthen the value chain. Companies need large quantities and supply security, which we can only achieve through good cooperation throughout the value chain.”

EMPHATI is partly focused on determining how these bio-based materials can be produced on a large scale. The aim is to develop environmentally friendly applications in injection molding and 3D printing within the participating production companies. “This will definitely help us move forward, along with gaining more insight into how we can make the best possible products from PHA and how we can further open up the plastic market. We are currently looking for parties with concrete ideas on this,” Keuning says.

Sytze Keuning

Cross-Border Collaboration

The projects initiated under the EMPHATI umbrella are by definition cross-border. The plastic processing industry in Northern Germany and Northern Netherlands collaborates with knowledge institutions on both sides of the border. Keuning explains, “This is valuable because it allows us to form a cluster that covers the entire PHA production chain, from research to production.”

In Germany, the 3N Competence Center of Lower Saxony is the network organization for recyclable resources and the bio-economy. Frank Köster, as project manager, is responsible for the implementation of EMPHATI. He finds the interaction between universities and companies a unique aspect of this project. Companies need raw materials that behave in a certain way, and in the institutes’ laboratories, they test how the material can be adapted to the industry’s needs.

This alternates between Bremen University of Applied Sciences and NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences in Emmen. Köster says, “EMPHATI mainly focuses on the application of PHA. We use machines to test how we can ensure that the new materials meet our expectations.”

This includes testing how PHA can replace fossil-based materials in the injection molding process. “It is very important to demonstrate that this is possible,” says Köster. This is necessary to seriously compete in the plastics market in the future. And thanks to the good collaboration we have in this project, spanning a large region on both sides of the border, we show that we can produce regionally on a large scale.”

Frank Köster

Available Vouchers

EMPHATI consists of two parts. In the closed section, current partners work on researching the exact contribution PHA can make to a sustainable world. For example, extensive studies are being conducted on the life cycle analysis of PHA.

In the open section, there is room for new project ideas. Subsidy vouchers are available for projects that stimulate the development of new applications with PHA. This includes finding out which combinations of fibers are ideal for specific applications and which substances should form the basis for new materials for 3D printing and more. Keuning says, “Gaining insight is what it’s all about. For the participating parties, but also for the industry at large.”

EV Biotech is one of the companies that can benefit greatly from EMPHATI. The Groningen-based company uses microorganisms to create chemical compounds naturally and sustainably, and PHAs are such compounds that are of interest to the company.

CCO Linda Dijkshoorn says, “EMPHATI provides us with the opportunity to conduct extensive research into the possibilities of PHA. For us, this means finding out what properties promising PHAs should have. Based on that, we can determine how to best set up our fermentation process.”

Linda Dijkshoorn

Closing the Supply Chain

EV Biotech can produce entire series of different types of PHA using microorganisms. This is an expensive process. “That’s why the subsidy from EMPHATI is so welcome. This way, we first learn a lot and expand our network, also with potential customers, before we start large-scale production.”

PHAs were already on EV Biotech’s radar. The company is working with an international group to make natural plastics from biologically degraded cotton. Dijkshoorn says, “Within the EMPHATI network, we can see if we can collaborate with more knowledge institutions and companies. We definitely want to do more projects through EMPHATI this year because it provides so much knowledge and experience.”

Closing the supply chain is one of the major advantages offered by the extensive circle of partners and participating companies in EMPHATI. For companies like EV Biotech, this is essential. “When you are working with such a new material, you want the supply of raw materials to be arranged, but certainly also the uptake of end products. Otherwise, you can’t get it off the ground.”

That there is a market for PHA—provided it is made in such a way that the industry can use it—is certain for Köster. “We are in the middle of the resource transition and need to become fossil-free in the short term, even in the plastics industry. Speed is the mantra. Customers from the industry are demanding sustainable alternatives to fossil-based materials on a large scale. With EMPHATI, we are collectively working towards an attractive offering.”

PHA

Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are biodegradable polymers produced by various microorganisms such as bacteria and archaea as reserve supplies of energy and carbon. These polymers have properties similar to many conventional plastics, but they are biodegradable and more environmentally friendly. The properties of PHAs can vary depending on the specific type and production method. They can, for example, be both flexible and rigid.

Space for Projects

EMPHATI still has subsidies available for new projects until mid-2025. These can be either pilot studies or feasibility studies. Pilot projects include developing and testing innovative process technologies, processes, products, and applications related to PHA. The goal of a feasibility study is to investigate and analyze the potential of a PHA project. For both types of projects, 50% subsidy is available, up to €75,000 and €10,000, respectively.

More information about the conditions and submission methods can be found at https://biocooperative.nl/emphati/ and https://www.3-n.info/emphati/.

 

International Partners

The project partners in the EMPHATI project are:

BIO Cooperative, 3N Kompetenzzentrum e.V., Ecoras, bekuplast GmbH, TKT Kunststoff-Technik GmbH, H&P Moulding Emmen B.V., IST Ficotex e.K., Hochschule Bremen, NHL Stenden, BINDER 3D B.V., Avans University of Applied Sciences, Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, Netzwerk Oberfläche NRW e.V.

EMPHATI is an Interreg project and is made possible by:

Bron artikel en foto’s: chemporteurope.eu

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