Sustainable Chemistry with Focus on Resource Efficiency

The APL-professorship Sustainable Chemistry with Focus on Resource Efficiency investigates the efficient use of biogenic resources.

The aim is the development of biotechnological and chemical processes for the almost complete use of carbon for the production of chemicals and materials. We follow the recommendation of the German bioeconomy council for a cascade use of biomass starting with food and feed production before material and energetic use. We therefore do not consider biomasses which can be used as food and feed as biogenic resources.

A stream of particular interest for us is organic waste. Organic waste is predominantly energetically used and either incinerated or anaerobically degraded to CH4 and CO2. The potential of organic waste streams as sources of sugars, amino acids, fatty acids and other functionalized molecules, however, should be fully exploited. The professorship works specifically on approaches to utilize organic waste in densely populated urban areas with the goal to cover partly the demand of chemicals and materials.

A topic of particular importance is the responsible use of food waste. Globally around 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. Alone in Germany 18 million tons of food is wasted annually. Food waste is a renewable resource, but certainly no sustainable resource which should be utilized for establishing a biobased economy. However, the production of food from arable land, its processing and transport to the costumer binds enormous amounts of resources in form of energy, water, fertilizer and labor. Those resources need to be, at least, partly recovered. An energetic use would only result in the recovery of a small fraction of the energy initially spent on production. Therefore, a material use of food waste is certainly the better utilization approach.

The professorship also works on approaches to convert food waste into food and this is considered to be the most responsible way of utilization!