Evolutionary bioeconomic processes EVOBIO – "Integrative use of material flows to produce optimized materials for innovative products in bioeconomic process cycles"

All over the world, value creation and production processes lead to harmful emissions and non-recyclable waste and wastewater. In the EVOBIO project, process concepts were therefore developed and exemplarily demonstrated in order to be able to utilize material flows, materials and products completely – in sustainable, resource-conserving bioeconomic process cycles and through reuse of the resources used without residues.

Challenge and goals

© Fraunhofer EMB
The treated nutrient-rich wastewater from the wastewater treatment plant is used in the EVOBIO project for the hydroponic cultivation of lettuce.

All over the world, value creation and production processes lead to harmful emissions and non-recyclable waste and wastewater. Often, in a bioeconomic sense, non-optimized processes and value chains, but also missing technologies are the cause, in addition to a general shortage or increase in price of the required resources.

In the EVOBIO project, concepts were therefore developed and demonstrated on selected examples, which enable the transition from a unidirectional value chain to a fully integrative use of material flows, materials and products in sustainable, resource-conserving bioeconomic process cycles. This was achieved through the targeted, iterative further development of material and product properties, with residue-free reuse of the resources used. The merging of the biosphere and technosphere in a continuously optimizing cycle that is to be developed further in an evolutionary manner forms a central approach here.


Pillar 1

Closed material flows: Wastewater, residual materials and waste gas as a sustainable resource

Wastewater treatment plant of the future, use of biogenic residues

  • Wastewater serves as a source of raw materials
  • Concept of a complete redesign of wastewater treatment plants: Using suitable technologies, wastewater is treated in such a way that the resulting material flows (solids from sludge digestion, nutrient-rich filtrate water, biogas) can be utilized (wastewater biorefinery: conversion of constituents or products such as CO2, recovery of nutrients and valuable materials)
  • Products produced in this way should be used iteratively in value-adding processes as feedstocks to realize a sustainable circular economy.
  • Demonstrator: Wastewater treatment plant of the future with high-load digestion at the Ulm wastewater treatment plant.


  • Wastewater treatment plant of the future: High-load digestion for Ulm-Steinhäule
  • Bioelectric systems at wastewater treatment plants
  • AI-assisted algae biotechnology
  • Extraction of functional compounds and proteins from food residue streams
  • Utilization of carbon oxides as raw material
high-load digestion pilot plant
© Fraunhofer IGB
The high-load digestion pilot plant at the Ulm wastewater treatment plant provides three usable material streams: Biogas, nutrient-rich sludge water, and organic digestate.

Pillar 2

Improved materials: materials with new functionalities based on residual material streams

Integration of biological, active and adaptive components

  • Identification and use of new materials based on those mentioned in the material streams section, as well as other biogenic feedstocks
  • Materials are to be developed into high-performance alternatives to petrochemical standards with, if necessary, new and additional functionalities in innovative synthesis methods, processing procedures and applications
  • Requirements for the new materials: they must be processable with already established techniques or new processing techniques must be rapidly realizable (new process engineering and formulation solutions)
  • Exploitation and use of biological functionalities in materials that make them more intelligently applicable and sustainable
  • Demonstrator: Adaptive elastomer sealing inspired by nature


  • Polymer blends, formulations and additives
  • Light stabilizers
  • Lignin blends
  • Natural coatings
  • Adaptive elastomeric sealing
  • Coating with microorganisms
  • Microencapsulation
  • Biocatalytic conversions in 2-phase systems
© Fraunhofer IAP
At Fraunhofer IAP, natural substances such as essential oils or enzymes are microencapsulated so that their effect is retained when they are incorporated into coatings or polymer composites.

Pillar 3

New products: High-performance materials based on natural resources and hybrid structures

  • Bioinspired approaches for new material properties/surfaces and hybrid structures
  • Natural foam structures that, analogous to bones, have a significantly lower weight than a solid material while maintaining high stability.
  • The direct integration of biological building blocks on surfaces is to be further developed for the realization of novel products, e.g. biosensors for pollutants, surfaces for material conversion or biobased high-performance textiles.
  • Combinations of bioinspired structures and biobased coatings can create innovative products with completely new properties.
  • Demonstrator: Bioinspired foam structures and biobased functional fibers


  • (Biobased) high-performance fibers
  • Bioinspired foam-based hybrid structures
  • Bioactive surfaces
water repellency
© Fraunhofer IGB
At Fraunhofer IGB, the functionality of water repellency with simultaneous water vapor permeability was created using bio-based materials. Top: two uncoated papers after wetting with water. Bottom: the functionally coated papers 5 min after water application.

Pillar 4

Commercialization and sustainability

Planning of technology transfer and market entry


  • Utilize resources more efficiently
  • Reduce consumption of resources and make material use more sustainable
  • Complete circularity and recycling of products due to design and materials used


The project "Evolutionary bioeconomic processes EVOBIO – Integrative use of material flows for the production of optimized materials for innovative products in bioeconomic process cycles" started in August 2020 under the management of the Fraunhofer Institutes IGB, IAP, and IVV. It was funded in the Fraunhofer Innovation Program until December 2020 and coordinated by Fraunhofer IGB.