Munich, Germany - A research project led by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is developing technologies to manufacture carbon fibres from algae oil.
If successful, the resulting end-product materials will extract more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they generate, explained a TUM release.
The Green Carbon project aims to develop manufacturing processes for polymers and carbon-based light-weight materials for industries such as aviation and automotive.
Germany’s ministry of education and research has contributed around €6.5 million Euro to fund the research at the Munich centre.
Due to their fast growth, microalgae like those cultivated at TUM’s Ludwig Bölkow Campus can actively store CO2 in form of biomass.
CO2 is mainly bound in sugars and algae oil, which can be used in chemical and biotechnological processes to produce precursors for many industrial processes.
As example, TUM said yeast oil from algae sugars is a feedstock for sustainable plastics, while enzymes can split the yeast oil into glycerine and free fatty acids.
The free fatty acids are precursors for products like high-quality additives for lubricants, among others; the glycerine can be turned into carbon fibres.
“The carbon fibres produced from algae are absolutely identical to the fibres currently in use in the industry,” said project lead Thomas Brück, professor for synthetic biotechnology at TUM.
“Therefore, they can be used for all standard processes in aviation and automotive production,” according to Brück.