Environmental and Process Engineering

Eine Frau schließt ein Kabel an den Tomographiereaktor an.

Areas of application

Keramische Membranen für die Abwasserbehandlung und Wasseraufbereitung in verschiedenen Geometrien.
© Fraunhofer IKTS
Ceramic membranes of varying tube geometries for water and waste water treatment.

Waste water and water treatment


Keeping water clean, in particular by purifying waste water, is a central tenet of environmental protection. In this area, Fraunhofer IKTS focuses on methods free from chemical and biological agents, as well as on integrated reactor systems for the treatment of waste and process waters. With ceramic membranes or electrochemical and photocatalytic oxidation processes, potable water, municipal and industrial process water, mining water and geothermal deep water can be processed.

Keramikkatalysator für die Abgasnachbehandlung.
© Fraunhofer IKTS
Ceramic catalyst for exhaust gas after treatment.

Exhaust gas treatment and gas processing


Many engineering processes produce gaseous mixtures containing extremely fine particles and gaseous pollutants that are hazardous to humans and damaging to the environment. Fraunhofer IKTS provides open-porous, cellular ceramic bodies and membranes for hot gas dedusting and particle filtration. Nanoporous membranes, for instance, enable separating individual components from gaseous mixtures. Another focus is on ceramic catalyst supports and catalysts for exhaust gas purification. As an alternative to precious metals, ceramic catalysts exhibit higher thermal stability. Furthermore, they tolerate common catalyst poisons, which critically affect precious metals, much better.

CO2 reduction


Various strategies for preventing (CDA), as well as using and storing (CCU) CO2 offer significant potential with a view to meeting the defined climate targets. Ceramics-based technologies for electrolysis, CO2 capture and for the synthesis of higher-value products (Fischer-Tropsch) can become a game-changing contribution to this effort. In particular in carbon-intensive industries, such as the steel industry, it is possible to reduce emissions significantly by up to 95 % by producing hydrogen in a highly efficient solid-oxide electrolysis process and using it for the reduction of ferrous oxide. Another approach for reducing CO2 emissions is to optimize industrial combustion and oxidation processes. The consumption of fossil energy carriers, and thus CO2 emissions, can be reduced by adding oxygen. To produce oxygen cost-efficiently, Fraunhofer IKTS is developing oxygen-selective membranes and oxygen generators.

Katalysator‐ und Reaktorprüfstände.
© Fraunhofer IKTS
Catalyst and reactor test stands.

Chemical process engineering


Material separation with durable ceramic membranes is energy-efficient and thus often more economically viable than the thermal separation techniques, extraction and adsorption methods typically used in chemical process engineering. The use of chemicals for regenerating adsorbents or extracting agents decreases when using membranes. In reaction engineering, educts can be dosed accurately and products can be removed with precision thanks to ceramic membranes. In this field, Fraunhofer IKTS works with catalytically active membranes, combining them with catalysts in the membrane reactor or membrane contactor.


Alternative fuels


On account of their high energy density and easy storage, liquid fuels will retain significance for mobility in the short and medium term. Fraunhofer IKTS shows ways to replace oil as the basic ingredient for fuel production by using alternative carbon-containing raw materials and compounds. This includes catalyst systems as well as process engineering methods and plants for the production of fuels and recyclable materials using chemical syntheses, such as the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis while taking hydrogen technologies into account. Powerful modeling and simulation allow for the development and supply of novel concepts in chemical reaction engineering.  


Resource recovery


Resource recovery from waste waters and liquid process media, and their provision plays an important role in the efficient use of resources. Fraunhofer IKTS is able to cover the full wet chemical process chain, starting with the extraction from solids, to enriching using membrane-supported extraction processes, through to the target product. In this regard, electrochemical processes are preferred, but process combinations are also used. We have extensive experience in recovering rare earth concentrates from secondary raw material sources, preparing rare earth compounds in a pure state, as well as in recovering special and precious metals from scrap metal and dump materials. Hypolimneatic water is a non-conventional source, allowing the extraction of many important raw materials, depending on the specific site.

Tomographiereaktor zur Bewertung von Misch- und Rührprozessen.
© Fraunhofer IKTS
Tomography reactor for analysis of mixing and agitation processes.

Biotechnological processes


Fraunhofer IKTS provides a wide range of process engineering solutions for bioenergy technologies, such as disintegration, mixing and stirring processes, with the aim of using substrates containing lignocellulose, among other substances, for the purpose of biogas production. The treatment of biogas is optimized through adsorptive and membrane processes, which improve methane enrichment, biogas dehydration, nutrient recovery and process water treatment. With regard to the production of bioethanol, the IKTS relies on organophile pervaporative separation and ultrafiltration membranes for the purpose of saccharification, dewatering and substrate preparation. Many of these extremely efficient methods can be transferred to other biotechnological recovery and treatment processes.




Resource efficiency, the effectiveness of antibiotics, sustainability of soil properties, or quality of ground water: These aspects are becoming more and more important for the agricultural systems of today. Sustainable economic management of resources must be based on the treatment and use of biomass- and nutrient-containing residual waste materials which are produced in agriculture as by-products. These materials are prepared in such a way that they can be re-introduced into the production cycle in the form of fertilizer, water and energy. In this context, material cycles are not seen as isolated systems. Rather, sensor systems automatically detect and analyze the complex interactions between cycles in order to increase productivity through optimized processes while at the same time improving sustainability. In this endeavor, Fraunhofer IKTS offers ceramic membranes, filters, adsorbents, catalysts, sensors and energy storage solutions.