Network for a Circular Carbon Economy

Carbon-containing raw materials are vital resources for the German industry and underpin its wealth. A transition towards a circular carbon facilitates the sustainable utilization of carbon raw materials via a coupling of the energy, chemical, engineering, waste management and recycling sectors.  The initiative by Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS brings together partners from industry and science to jointly develop innovative and marketable solutions for a circular carbon economy.

Motivation

The German chemical industry requires about 15 million tons of carbon annually to produce goods ranging from plastics, adhesives, lubricants to cosmetics. This demand is largely met by imported crude oil and natural gas. The chemical industry’s carbon demand – unlike sectors such as energy and mobility – cannot be easily replaced by carbon-free substances or technologies.

A circular carbon economy will enable the chemical industry to develop a sustainable basis for its raw material supply. Carbon will remain in the system instead of being released for example as CO2 into the environment which contributes to climate change and global warming. To achieve this, the recycling and recirculation of secondary carbon raw materials are crucial factors. The network for a circular carbon economy (NK2) thus paves the way for such a carbon transition.

»With NK2 we want to establish a platform for information and knowledge exchanges as well as intersectoral and international networking. We are convinced that a circular carbon economy not only offers considerable advantages for climate protection, but also great potential for added value in Germany«, says Prof. Dr. Bernd Meyer, Division Head for Chemical Conversion Processes at the Fraunhofer IMWS and Director of the Institute of Energy Process Engineering and Chemical Engineering at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, who is the scientific lead for NK2 activities.

Objective, Key Topics and Focus

Aim of the NK2 network is the transition towards a carbon cycle economy. To facilitate this, recycling and recirculation of primary and secondary carbon raw materials are crucial factors as they enable carbon to be retained in the system instead of being released as climate-polluting CO2. The establishment of a circular carbon economy will support a sustainable raw material supply for the chemical industry in cooperation with sectors ranging from energy, waste management, recycling, processing, lightweight construction to renewables.

Key topics and focuses for NK2 are:

  1. Materials, processes and technologies for the conversion of solid carbon resources,
  2. Integration of “green” hydrogen and renewable power,
  3. CO2-neutral, gas-based processes and syntheses for chemical basis materials and synthetic fuels,
  4. New materials, material utilization & process design,
  5. Information technology,
  6. Systems and sustainability for a circular economy,
  7. Political framework and legislations.

NK2 Activities

The NK2 network provides a platform for information, knowledge sharing, intersectoral and international networking. Through workshops, trainings and conferences, NK2 partners not only exchange information relating to new developments for efficient, sustainable and economical design for a circular carbon economy, but also for sustainable structural change in Germany’s lignite regions. The focus is on innovative low CO2 emission technologies for the chemical utilization of domestic carbon resources, chemical recycling of waste, integration of renewably generated “green” hydrogen and/ or renewable power as well as the production of carbon-containing value-added products. The NK2 network organizes intersectoral experience exchanges with industry, politics and other key stakeholders (e.g. NGOs, Media, general public). It furthermore integrates the diversity of Fraunhofer research expertise and spans the entire innovation chain from basic research to large-scale industrial application.