Anthropogenic Carbon Cycle

The Subtopic Anthropogenic Carbon Cycle tackles the challenge of a future carbon-neutral society, which needs

  1. renewable energy sources,
  2. carbon-based materials recycling technologies, and
  3. integrated process chains

combining both of the aforementioned technologies.

Possible cycles of carbon in the circular economy


In a future independent of fossil hydrocarbons, carbon will be available from

  1. biomass,
  2. from anthropogenic wastes and residue streams, and from
  3. unavoidable concentrated CO2-streams.

Thus, the feedstock basis of chemical industry and transportation fuels will change dramatically. The manufacturing of chemical products always requires carbon feedstocks.

Feedstocks, material flows, processes and digitization of the Anthropogenic Carbon Cycle

Key-enabling technologies of a circular carbon economy (Anthropogenic Carbon Cycle)

  • Pyrolysis
    • Fast pyrolysis of (residual) biomass
    • Intermediate pyrolysis of plastic waste
  • Entrained flow gasification
  • Upgrading
  • Hot gas cleaning
  • Syngas fermentation
  • Structure-property-process relations of materials
  • Algae value chain

In the long-term, carbon-based compounds will be needed as energy carriers with high energy density and storability. In order to meet the targets of the Climate Protection Plan of the German Government, additional short-term measures need to be implemented specifically for the transportation sector. Advanced hydrocarbon fuels and oxygenates will have to play an important role in this scenario. The market introduction of these fuels can be based on the existing logistics infrastructure, which makes them especially important for the transition period. Their use will be an important long-term option for applications in which high energy density fuels are of particular importance.

Plastic waste recycling has to be a major pillar of the carbon cycle concept. The updated European Union regulatory framework forming the basis for national legislation sets the CE targets to be incorporated into the climate objectives: the 2008 Waste Framework Directive in which recovery operations/ recycling were made the guiding principle demands 65 weight-% recycling of municipal solid waste by 2030. A dramatic change in plastics recycling is required by the first EU plastics strategy (2018): 55 % of plastic waste will have to be recycled in 2030. This is equivalent to a surplus recycling capacity of approx. 11 million t/a in the EU.

In particular, recycling by producing chemicals (chemical recycling, waste-to-chemicals) has to be supported by new technologies, as real waste is a complex mixture of often chemically bound organic and inorganic materials that cannot be fully separated by physical processes.

Selected Projects



Fast pyrolysis of residual biomass
Key Enabling Technologies Entrained Flow Gasification of Pyrolysis Oils from Biomass Residues or Plastic Waste
Syngas Fermentation in bioreactors: Acetogenic bacteria metabolize syngas (CO2, CO & H2) from industrial point sources, biomass and waste and convert it to acetate as an organic feedstock.


Journal Articles
Conference Papers