CIGR Handbook VII of Non-food Biological Materials Engineering


The synthesis of inorganic chemical compounds - carbon dioxide and water - in chlorophyll plants stores energy from solar radiation. This energy is often consumed in the form of food and feed.

Photosynthetic processes allow not only to store solar radiation energy for food and feed, but also to produce natural industrial raw materials with a non-food purpose.

The use of these materials is diverse, such as the production of natural fertilizers (e.g. compost), natural fabrics (e.g. cotton, wool), clothing, footwear and accessories (animal skins and fur), pharmaceutical and cosmetics (herbs, beeswax) as well as biofuels (see CIGR Handbook Vol. V). The use of raw materials is increasing, such as starch and cellulose used in biodegradable food packaging production.

The fundamental advantages of natural biological raw materials - plants and animals - are their biodegradability and reproducibility. For example, packaging from these materials can be broken down by microorganisms in a short period of time, generally a few months, while the decomposition of plastic packaging may take hundreds of years.

Products used by humans (e.g., clothing, cosmetics) that are made from raw materials of biological origin are usually non-allergenic and thus gain widespread social approval of consumers.

The production of non-food and biological raw materials may be a financially attractive alternative to the production of food and fodder raw materials. In many industrialized countries where there is overproduction of food, farmers are looking for alternatives that will ensure a stable and profitable operation.

The usefulness of non-food biological raw materials for industrial processing is determined by their physical, chemical, and biological properties. These properties are represented by metrics and parameters that may take the form of standards. For example, the suitability of cotton for processing is determined, inter alia, based on fiber length, break strength and color. The usefulness of herbs for the cosmetics industry is determined by the content of essential oils and their chemical structure. Contamination, microbiological feathers and down of birds, determines their suitability to produce bedding and clothing.

Physical, chemical, and biological parameters of biological non-food raw materials are determined by the original makeup of the source of the material, the production environment, processes used in production, handling, storage, and transportation, as well as manufacture. Each of these stages requires the use of engineering for the efficient use of the resource, ensure sustainability and social responsibility.

The Editors.


Chapter 1: Silk - Zhu Chengyan, Tian Wei, Jin Xiaoke, Li Qizheng, Chen Junjun, Liu Shuangshuang, Hafeezullah Memon, Shao Lingda, Qiu Yingjie, Feng Xuhuang, Wang Quan


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