“Conventional chemistry needs a new story in a sustainable world”

2020-04-06 Thanks to modern methods in digital learning, the new professional Master's degree in M. Sc. Sustainable Chemistry can be studied almost entirely online. The programme, which is accredited according to German and European standards of chemistry higher education, starts with a one-week classroom session at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany where applicants and programme staff get to know each other. Due to the corona pandemic, this kick-off also had to be moved to the net. Two students from India and Romania explain why it was nevertheless a successful start.

 Textile chemist Davinder Singh Kahlon has been searching for years for a suitable Master's programme that deals with the sustainability perspective of applied chemistry. “I looked primarily at American universities, but could not find a masters program fit to my career goals”, says the Indian. But the 40 year old found the right offer in Germany: “I work for a large textile multi-national company in India and am responsible for developing and optimizing chemical processes in manufacturing. Northern India is one of the important locations for the textile industry in the region, but we have a particular problem of depleting water resources and rising environmental pollution concerns.” The use of resources and chemicals in manufacturing production is one of the reasons. Davinder Singh Kahlon believes that innovative process/ product design approach can help to conserve resources and mitigate environmental pollution in the long-run. "Environmental awareness does exist here and recycling is an important issue, but the 'Benign by Design or Chemical leasing' approach is largely unknown here.

At the launch of the new "Sustainable Chemistry" course of study, head Prof. Dr. Klaus Kümmerer gave an overview - via the World Wide Web. Due to the corona virus, the classroom event had to be moved to the Internet at the start of the course. “I was thrilled how well the implementation worked out. In the introductory sessions, the broad perspective of sustainable chemistry and the importance of focusing on product life-cycle was explained in detail”, says Davinder Singh Kahlon.

“I would like to pass this on to my students”

It seems a little strange to call Alina Catrinel Ion a student. The Professor of Analytical Chemistry teaches at the University of Bucharest for 28 years. “The topic of sustainable chemistry is becoming increasingly important. I would like to pass this on to my students”, she explains. Traditional chemistry faces today a big challenge, she says, and sustainable chemistry could be a solution for the whole world. “We need new approaches. Conventional chemistry needs a new story in a sustainable world”, says the scientist. She sees advantages and disadvantages in the online study ability of the "Sustainable Chemistry" Master's degree: “Yes, chemistry without a laboratory seems hardly imaginable at first, but the corona pandemic in particular has made us realize how important digital learning formats are.”

The new course aims to help students understand and apply chemistry in the context of sustainability from the molecular level to global material flows. In addition, sustainability assessments and new business models for chemistry are in focus. Methods of chemistry informatics enable experiments in silico.