Given the constant increase in the world’s population and the decline in fossil raw material reserves, the recovery of renewable raw materials is one of the key issues for the future. However, the aim is not only to fulfill long-term energy demand through the use of alternative, renewable, climate-friendly energy sources. Substances known as aromatics, which have been produced from oil up to now, are needed for the manufacture of thousands of everyday materials and are found, in drugs, coloring agents, plastics, and epoxy resins, among other things. And although it is possible to obtain these crucial synthesis components from wood, the conversion of wood into aromatic compounds was thus far only possible under technically sophisticated and uneconomic conditions. Researchers from the Max Planck Institut (MPI) für Kohlenforschung have now developed a method, with the help of which aromatics from wood can be made available for use as raw materials in a simple and cost-effective way.
Image: Laboratory process for the isolation of lignin from wood
Certain materials are known to generate an electric potential when exposed to a temperature gradient (Seebeck effect) and a temperature difference when a voltage is applied (Peltier effect).
A lot of sources of waste heat are suitable for generating electrical power using such thermoelectric materials. On the other hand, there is a need to provide electrically operated cooling devices without moving parts. Therefore, there is great interest in devising thermoelectric materials with significantly higher efficiency than is currently available.
Solar modules with no dust layer, clean windscreens, spectacles that never need to be cleaned – water-repellent surfaces that use the lotus effect and are self-cleaning can be used in a wide variety of applications. An invention by the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research now enables the production of transparent and stable surfaces on which water forms droplets that drip off and remove dirt particles in the process – with the help of so-called “raspberry particles”.
A great deal of energy could be saved if turbines and combustion engines operated at higher temperatures than they currently do. Ceramic high-temperature materials make this possible. Martin Jansen, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, has been conducting research into just such a new material for 20 years. It is now ready for the market: Amorphous SiBNC Ceramics for High-Temperature, High-Durability and Light-Weight Applications
Picture: Stable, even when it gets hot – The ceramic fibers made from silicon, boron, nitrogen and carbon can withstand extremely high temperatures.