Chair for heterogeneous Catalysis and Industrial Chemistry (ITMC)


Research directions of the workgroup

Our research focuses on the development of novel solid catalysts for the efficient utilization of fossil and renewable resources and process design for the transformation of biomass into value-added chemicals and biofuels.

Main topics under investigation:

  • Catalyst and process engineering for the efficient use of renewable resources

  • Multiphase catalytic systems for the integration of catalytic transformation and separation

  • Design of novel solid molecular catalysts to bridge homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis

  • Material development for the challenge of energy production and sustainable technologies

Processes for the efficient utilization of renewable resources

Our research with special focus on for development of processes for efficient utilization of renewable resources in developing and emerging countries is funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation in the frame of the Robert Bosch Junior Professorship for Sustainable Use of Renewable Natural Resources.

The present approach aims for the development of catalytic low temperature conversion technologies for the efficient utilization of biomass based on lignocellulose rich residues and waste streams with focus on catalyst and process development for application in developing and emerging countries. Main challenges include process design and identification of suitable inexpensive and potentially noble metal free catalysts, which are resistant against naturally occurring sulfur compounds, allow energy efficient processing at moderate reaction conditions in aqueous phase.

Funded by: Robert Bosch Foundation

Molecular inspired solid catalysts for the direct oxidation of methane to methanol

Direct oxidation of methane to methanol is a long standing challenge in catalysis hampered by the high binding energy of the CH3-H bond and the ease of overoxidation to CO2. Our studies concentrate on the development of polymer based solid catalysts for the oxidation of methane to methanol via methylbisulfate as intermediate species. The polymers exhibit structural units which allow molecular coordination of metal centres within the material. We could demonstrate that such materials reach activities comparable to the well known molecular Periana system together with high selectivities and stability over several recycling steps. Further investigations cover catalyst development, structure-activity relations and process design.

Bi-functional catalysts for direct transformation of cellulose and wood

Hydrogenolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose resulting in C-C and C-O cleavage is a promising technology for the direct transformation of biomass into value-added chemicals and could be an entry point for future biorefinery concepts. Suitable catalyst systems cover the whole range of molecular and solid acid catalysts together with hydrogenation catalysts. Interestingly, the requirements concerning catalyst development for biomass conversions appear to be different from those for catalysts for conventional petrochemical processes. Both the high polarity of the substrates and the high polarity of the utilized solvents together with the need for liquid phase processes necessitate new strategies in material design and adapted surface properties of the catalysts.

Funded by: TMFB and Robert Bosch Stiftung

Production of biomass based monomers for polymer production

Terephthalic acid presents such an important oil-based building block for chemical synthesis and important monomer for a multitude of polymers such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polyamide. Accordingly, a biomass-based alternative to terephthalic acid would be highly desirable. Therein, 2,5-furandialdehyde (FDA) and 2,5-furan dicarboxylic acid (FDCA) appear to be interesting molecules which can be prepared via dehydration of sugars to form 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) followed by oxidation. Consequently, the development of suitable solid acid and oxidation catalysts is necessary and depends on solvent system, reaction conditions and process design.

Funded by: NETZ and Robert Bosch Stiftung