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Project name:

Customized three-dimensional porous carbon structures made from sustainable sources

Status: Idea
Creation date: 22-09-2021

Project objectives:

A Spanish research centre specialised in carbon materials has developed three-dimensional porous carbon structures from whey powder, a by-product from the dairy industry. These structures are fully customizable in any shape and size and have many applications: filters, catalyst support, scaffolds for tissue engineering, support of enzymes or biomolecules, etc. Partners are sought through a research cooperation agreement or license agreement for the valorisation of its multiple applications.

A Spanish research centre, specialised in the study and application of carbon materials, has developed an ecological and affordable method that produces high-quality fully customizable carbons. These features give outline to two main problems: a new synthetic process for this kind of materials which tend to be complex and expensive, and the valorisation of a waste by-product as it is the whey from the dairy industry.
Currently in the market, there are a high variety of activated monolith carbons which are manufactured using techniques as extrusion or coated materials with limited meso- and micro-porosity, achieving simple geometry. Within the aiming of producing customized structures by additive manufacturing, non-renewable synthetic precursors that are potentially harmful and very expensive materials are used. From the point of view of the valorisation of the whey, some solutions have been proposed in the context of the production of active carbons, however, there is not still a valuable material that could support the high quantities of wasted whey.
This product is a fully customizable material in any shape and size, made from sustainable products with outstanding physical properties (low weight, low density, high permeability, low abrasiveness, high mechanical strength, and dimensional stability at temperatures up to 1000 ºC). It is biocompatible and customizable through control of its porosity, surface chemistry, and material properties. All of these features result in a high variety of applications which can be divided into biomedical and bioengineering (scaffolds for tissue engineering, biomolecules filters and biomolecules support); environmental (filters for gaseous and liquid substances) and chemical engineering (catalyst support, membranes, bioreactors and bioreactor parts), energy storage (3D carbon electrodes).
The material is ready for testing in a specific context and increases its value. A partner would be supportive through a research cooperation agreement that results in a demonstration of capacities within any of the aforementioned applications. Therefore generating new and promising forms of the material and all the protection strategies that would outcome from them, creating a relevant advance in social and market value for this kind of products. That cooperation would be envisaged through the direct finance of the partner or with a European grant, within the context of horizon Europe 2021-2027, or a national call from the country of the respective partners. If the partner considers that the technology is already valuable and wants a license for its particular development and commercialization, a license agreement would be negotiated to establish the terms for the further exploitation of the technology.

Advantages & innovations

  • Made from 100% sustainable and cost-effective natural products. Whey powder is a natural by-product of the dairy industry which the market cannot absorb completely. Therefore, important amounts end as food waste biomass. The presented approach achieves the manufacturing of a quality material valorising whey powder, resulting in an economical and environmentally friendly method. • Scalable at industrial level Casting and additives techniques, due to their simplicity, are easily transferable to the industry in order to obtain bigger amounts of material or faster manufacturing without having to be too concerned about complex issues. • High mechanical strength and high wear resistance The final product shows mechanical properties that are similar or superior to other related functional carbon materials obtained from less sustainable and more expensive and complicated techniques. • Dimensional stability at temperatures up to 1000ºC, low weight, low density, open porosity, and surface chemistry The resulting single piece of carbon with the desired shape is compact and easy to manage, it can be produced with a selected porosity and chemistry, targeting a specific application. • Biocompatible material The material has been tested to be compatible with biological environments. Two of the considered application have been the manufacturing of bioreactors since it allows the attachment and good maintenance of bacteria or enzymes, and its use in tissue engineering as a scaffold for bones and cartilages growth.

Stage of development

Prototype available for demonstration

Partner sought

In the case of a research cooperation agreement, industrial or research partners are sought for collaboration through the testing and valorisation of the material in the application that would suit better with the activity of the partner. In the case of a license agreement, an industrial partner is sought for the commercialization of the product.

Contact/ source: Enterprise Europe Network (