Minister Zypries Launches PARFORCE Facility at TU Freiberg

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs & Energy Brigitte Zypries
TU Bergakademie Freiberg has outstanding potential to boost German industry by generating scientific spin-offs. Scientists from the university demonstrated this potential with their PARFORCE technology in Freiberg for the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs & Energy, Ms. Brigitte Zypries.

Grant funding totalling over one million euro from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy helped to achieve this – specifically from the "EXIST Transfer of Research" program, which is part of the Federal Ministry's high-tech strategy. In addition, the Saxon State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts is funding the complex filter technology as a scientific infrastructure measure within the EXIST project, providing ERDF funds to the tune of 260,000 euro. Both projects run for two years (i.e. until February, and until June 2018 for the infrastructure development component).

The PARFORCE recycling process developed by the scientists in Freiberg deals with the element phosphorus. Of vital importance for all living organisms and plants, the mineral nutrient is involved in the development of bone tissue and genetic material, and is indispensable for the energy metabolism of cells. Human beings absorb phosphorus in the form of phosphates through their food. However, phosphorus is also used in industry – in the production of agricultural fertilizers, for example, or as an additive in foodstuffs. Though phosphorus is a finite resource, demand is increasing steadily. In the two-year period from 2014 to 2016 alone, production has risen by 22 per cent. A small number of source countries form an oligopoly, on whose imports Germany is dependent. In addition, the phosphate supplied is increasingly contaminated with heavy metals. Recycling therefore represents a new and urgently needed additional source of phosphorous.

In order to be able to supply the industry with clean, high-quality phosphoric acid into the future, researchers at TU Bergakademie Freiberg rely on domestic resources for their recycling process, with sewage sludge ash or production waste used for this purpose. This has many advantages: “On the one hand, we are less dependent on imports, while on the other hand, we obtain a high-purity phosphoric acid without producing problematic waste,” explains Prof. Martin Bertau. “The phosphoric acid produced is perfect for the production of fertilizers or chemical products."

It is also, however, suitable for food products. “Our recycled phosphoric acid does not have any of the problems of classical phosphoric acid in terms of heavy metal contamination,” adds Dr. Peter Fröhlich, head of the PARFORCE Technology spin-off project, which is designed to optimize the process and make it ready for industrial application. 

“The process developed at TU Bergakademie Freiberg is exemplary for the sustainable and economical use of our resources. It reflects not only the strength of the university's research, but also the potential of the Bergakademie's scientists. With its industry-oriented research and its steadily growing number of spin-offs, the Technical University fosters the transfer of knowledge to both industry and society, and contributes to the establishment of future technologies in Saxony,” says Minister Zypries. 

The combination of both fundamental and applied research is a distinctive feature of TU Bergakademie Freiberg. “Research on an industrial scale is one of our strengths,” stresses Rector Prof. Dr. Klaus-Dieter Barbknecht. “Our students learn on and in the projects, and are involved in research at an early stage of their studies to work on solutions for critical future issues.” In the new international Master's programme SINReM, for example, students will be able to combine science, technology and business right from the first lecture in the winter semester of 2017/18, providing them with a direct insight into successful spin-off projects. 

“The companies of Central Saxony are mostly very small and need innovative impulses from science for further successful development. TU Bergakademie Freiberg is meeting this challenge head-on. Sustainability and regional economic cycles are important focal points in this context,” says Dr. Simone Raatz, MdB, who accompanied the delegation.

Further information on the PARFORCE process and spin-off project:

Article on the construction of the PARFORCE plant on 19 May with the logos of all funding agencies:

Contact person:

Dr. Peter Fröhlich, Tel. +49(0)3731 39-3663, peter [dot] froehlichatchemie [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de

Federal Minister Brigitte Zypries commissions the PARFORCE plant
Federal Minister for Economics Brigitte Zypries signs the roll of honour
On the way to the PARFORCE facility
Brigitte Zypries learns about the patented PARFORCE technology
Brigitte Zypries in conversation with young researchers