Catalysis with renewable resources

Prof. Johannes G. de Vries

In view of the dwindling supply of fossil fuels and the negative effects associated with the ever-increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, we need to prepare ourselves for a world that runs on renewable resources, not only to secure the fuel, but also for the chemicals our everyday lives depend on. In our department, the focus is on the development of new chemical processes for the production of existing as well as new bulk and fine chemicals based on renewable resources. Our main raw materials are lignocellulose, as well as its components: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin; CO2 and fatty acids. Of particular importance are the platform chemicals that can be made in a single step from these renewable resources. The most important ones for us are levulinic acid that can be made directly from lignocellulose in the form of agro-waste or waste from the paper industry, HMF and furfural which are made from sugars, as well as bio-ethanol. Using mostly homogeneous catalysis we want to convert these platform chemicals into high-value chemicals and raw materials for polymers.

Therefore, two research groups are providing their expertise in this department:

  • Catalysis with renewables & platform chemicals (Dr. Sergey Tin)
    Synthesis and application of homogeneous catalysts for the conversion of renewables into platform chemicals and building blocks for polymers, e.g. butadiene, adiponitrile, caprolactam, and adipic acid. 
  • Organocatalysis (PD Dr. Thomas Werner)
    Development of novel catalytic procedures and synthetic methods based on organocatalysts and earth abundant metals. Special attention is payed i.a. to the utilization of CO2 as a synthetic building block for fine chemicals as well as to the conversion and functionalization of renewables, e.g. terpenes, oils, fats, and their derivatives.