Foto: Neusiedler Anlage

Cascading BIOMATTERS for wellness and life-style

This application oriented and basic research aims to develop a pilot-master-project in the region of eastern Styria and Burgenland for the cascading use of regional cultivated plants and plant-residues in order to produce wellness and lifestyle-products - by which the creation of value is strongly realated to the functional qualities of the available biomatters.

Short Description

The starting point of the project "NaWaRo-Cascading" is the fact that in Austria certain regions are obviously predestined for fruit cultivation, especially stone fruits. Thus, the apricot is famous in the Wachau, and in Styria for generations a delicious variety of stone fruits like plums, cherries, peaches and in addition apricot - from early to late maturing species are cultivated and processed. People like stone fruits because of their fresh fruit benefits, the sweet specialities (jams, jelly, fruit juices) as well as liqueurs and brandies.

But the actual use of the regional stone fruit varieties has been limited so far almost exclusively to the utilization of the fruit, to the benefit and the processing of the luscious fruitflesh and the aromatic juice. The inner part of the fruit, the soft core with the hard bowl and the soft-kernel had not been of interest until now. Hardly a fruit planter or processor has any idea how to make good use of this material. The cores has been considered an annoying waste product; sometimes it was dried and afterwards burned, however, for the most part dumped somewhere to mould and to rot.

The principal purpose of our research project was therefore to consider the options the stones as by-products: "NaWaRo" means renewable raw materials. Our aim was to enrich the range of cultivated products from the south-eastern hot spring region of Styria ("Wellness-Regio"). "Cascading" means following the principles of "multifunctionality" and "closed loop recycling management". Indeed, it is the ability of a more-than-one-phase-product to serve several services. In our research project we focussed on the question: In which way can multi-functionality - in this case of a stone fruit - be made available by technical and logistical procedures including sustainable system approaches?

By means of developing material cascades focussing on agricultural by-products, particularly with so-called "Pflanzenrestmassen", indeed a substantial if not inexhaustible usagepotential can be created. The production of valuable biomatters from a heterogeneous plant matrix inevitably leaves the remainder of the raw material as a by-product (e.g. stones with the juice and the jam production). Thereby, if one wishes to prevent a waste problem and if the outcome proves profitable, the utilization of these residual substances is not only welcome but lucrative.

We concentrated our R&D work to the treatment of the following questions:

  • How can stones of cherry, apricot, peach and plum be harvested, cleaned, cracked, separated, milled and graded into usable components (hard shell and soft kernel)?
  • Can oil be pressed from the cores, of which quality and for which purpose is it suitable?
  • Which components of the cascade are suitable for which application?
  • Which products can be made directly from the cores and/or of the oil, the press residue ("press-cake") and from the hard shells?
  • And last but not least what are the future prospects?

The methods of the scientific treatment had to orient themselves, on the one hand, according to the available processing technology and natural substance analysis. On the other hand, our creativity and technical intuitive feeling were frequently challenged by the unusual combination of tasks, and we also had to learn to get along with frustrating disappointments. But finally we overcame all drawbacks and achieved very promising results.

The project "NaWaRo Cascading for the Wellness Regio" was designed to turn what had been the waste-products of stone-fruits into valuable natural resources. The necessary processes were actually evolved for the regional cascade use of the stones of peaches, apricots, plums and cherries. Special value was thereby put on the physical and chemical properties of the stones and the kernels as well as the ways in which these biomaterials can be used for food, cosmetics, wellness products, and technical applications, such as cleansing abrasives and fillers for polymers. As a result of our R&D, we found a multiplicity of product possibilities, which can now be taken up by the enterprises involved and established in the market place.

Examples of such new applications are: Persipan, "Cherrypan", "Marillopan" and "Prunipan" or a "Krokant" for the chocolate industry, which is manufactured from the soft-kernels of plums or cherries. Also the fresh-pressed core oils are especially suitable for the sophisticated kitchen and catering trade. These oils, like the press residues ("press-cakes"), are just as valuable components in the petro-carbon elimination and natural cosmetic sector, as this project impressively demonstrated. Finally, even the hard shell of the stones in superfine, "micronised" condition can serve as filler for polymers and the somewhat rough, more granular pieces can be used as technical abrasive for delicate surface cleaning, without increasing the existing roughness of the metal surface - on the contrary: aluminium parts, which have been encrusted with oxidized residue, are thereby abraded smoothly and gently, resulting a highly polished surface.

For specific applications follow-up research is necessary, e.g. pilot-plant development, upscaling and demonstration work:

  • Thus, a breaking - and peeling technology, which is adapted to the multiple requirements of domestic fruit stones, is required. Here, it is our intention to create a demonstration project for the next call of "Factory of Tomorrow" in co-operation with an Austrian mechanical engineering and an abrasive producing company.
  • As regards the development of natural-cosmetic products, the suitability of the soft cores and the press residues seems of interest as emulsifying agent, active substance donator and flavour component. The emulsifying capability and potency of the stone matrix promises a high innovation potential.
  • Furthermore, our results permit us to conclude that the superfine crushed and graded hard shells show the best performance as vegetable (organic) blast-grains, particularly for careful applications in the automobile and aviation industry as well as fillers for polymers.

We are confident that "NaWaRo Cascading" has promising application possibilities. Our research team investigated the stone fruit kernel and the soft nucleus inside with care and vision as regards all possible applications. These bio-materials have much value to offer. Beyond the popular use of the flesh, these fruits (apricots, cherries, plums and peaches) contain inexpensive, regenerating and lasting raw material: fruit stones. The stones and their components could become a genuine sales hit - due to their immanent advantages compared with conventional resources. If we continue to develop our achievements we can reach the attained goal: it is a distant shining lighthouse, a bright signal of sustainability for the "Factory of Tomorrow", which could grow out of a small fruitstone.

Contact Address

TB Ing. Elmar Wimmer
e + c engineering & consulting
4840 Vöcklabruck, Dürnauerstr. 99
Tel.: +43 (7672) 238020
e-mail: e.wimmer@e-c.at

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