23.10.2023 - Volkswagen Foundation funds RWTH research


Press Release - Three projects to be funded with a total of 3.7 million euros

The Volkswagen Foundation is funding three research projects at RWTH Aachen University or with RWTH cooperation. These were applied for as part of the funding offer "Circularity with recycled and biogenic raw materials" in the profile area "Social transformations". Over the next four years, the foundation will cover costs amounting to 3.7 million euros.

Professor Sonja Herres-Pawlis from the RWTH Institute of Inorganic Chemistry and Professor Andreas Jupke, holder of the RWTH Chair of Fluid Process Engineering, were successful with their application "CIRCON - Circular materials innovation platform for continuous polymerization of novel materials and closed-loop lifecycle testing". Research on plastic products and their environmental impact has so far focused on the laboratory scale, and the path to industrial application is a challenge. In the project, the researchers want to bridge the so-called valley of death and use environmentally compatible and highly active polymerization catalysts. The aim is also to improve the chemical recycling of polylactide with catalysts in order to achieve closed-loop recovery of monomers from used plastics.

Mattress foam from waste is the focus of Professor Peter Quicker from Unit of Technology of Fuels and Dr.-Ing. Alexander Feil, Chair of Anthropogenic Material Cycles. In the future, the RWTH scientists will work on the project "REFOAM - Recycling of waste-derived mattress foam through sensor-based characterization and pyrolysis". Mattress foam derived from waste offers significant potential for resource recovery. With a sensor-based characterization and sorting technique, the foam material should be chemically recyclable. Therefore, in cooperation with industrial partners, the investigation of resource recovery of latex foam by pyrolysis is carried out from laboratory scale to technical scale. Waste material and all products of the pyrolysis process must first be characterized in order to recover them for synthesis or energetic use.

RWTH scientist Dr.-Ing. Fabian Diaz from Professor Bernd Friedrich's Department of Process Metallurgy and Metal Recycling is conducting research on the recycling of printed circuit boards. He is cooperating with Prof. Dr. Stefan Salhofer from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna and Prof. Jochen Petersen from the University of Cape Town. The title of the project is "Short Circuits - Development of a small-scale processing route for the localised short-loop recycling of waste electronic circuit boards". Printed circuit boards are the most valuable components in waste electrical equipment in terms of material content, but due to the complex material composition, recycling is challenging. Previous recycling routes are based on copper smelter technology and require a lot of input material. Only a few specialized smelters operate worldwide. Research is being conducted into a hydrometallurgical process suitable for local, small-scale operation. Scientists are investigating the possibilities of mechanical and thermal pretreatment as well as dissolution processes with organic and inorganic solvents. A comprehensive and flexible hydrometallurgical recycling route is the goal of the work.