Institute of Chemistry

Sustainability in Research and Teaching

Resource-efficient material conversion has been a leading principle for numerous research projects at the Institute of Chemistry for many years.

This includes, above all, our multifaceted work on catalysis and catalyst development. Catalysts, which lower the activation energy of reactions, allowing them to be carried out under more benign, more environmentally friendly conditions, have and continue to be the focus of, for instance, the UniCat Cluster of Excellence (2007 - 2018) and UniSysCat (since 2019) as well as the EC2/BIG-NSE research training group. The research topics covered range from homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis to biological catalysis and catalytic cascade reactions. 

This is clearly reflected in our research divisions. For instance, our Organic and Biological Chemistry working groups primarily focus on homogeneous catalysis in molecular chemistry, while our Technical Chemistry division mainly works on heterogeneous catalysis. The Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry division conducts research on both homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis. The academic chairs in the Organic and Biological Chemistry and Physical and Theoretical Chemistry divisions work on biocatalysis as well.

In addition to developing new catalysts and investigating their mechanisms of action, the Technical Chemistry division is, for example, looking for new ways of converting and storing energy. Particular focus is placed on hydrogen fuel cells and the generation of green hydrogen. Furthermore, the storage and conversion of carbon dioxide is researched here. This topic, as well as the production and application of hydrogen, is also taken up by BasCat - a joint lab of BASF SE and UniCat. 

The production and consumption of hydrogen in microorganisms and plants is one of the main research topics of (Bio-) Physical Chemistry at our institute. This work is partly related to the investigation of photoreceptors and photosynthesis. The knowledge gained here will be transferred to other processes in order to enable reactions with the help of light that would otherwise not take place.

However, it is not only the ability to use (sun)light as an energy source for chemical reactions that makes microorganisms so interesting, but also their ability to specifically form bonds - and to do so at temperatures just above room temperature and in aqueous solution. To this end, our Organic and Biological Chemistry groups are researching and manipulating biosynthesis pathways of various organisms so that new valuable and active substances are created with the help of microorganisms. Researchers across Berlin have also formed a network in the Bioactive Peptides research training group to foster this work. 

Materials for the energy transition and new catalyst materials are just some of the issues addressed by the Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry division. Its focus is on the production of new electrode materials as well as nanostructured materials and highly porous functional materials. Additionally, research is conducted into new methods for solid-state synthesis in order to gain access to new catalysts.  

The Chemical Invention Factory (John Warner Center for Start-ups in Green Chemistry, CIF) offers the ideal platform for transferring findings from the lab to society for researchers who want to realize their ideas and research projects on sustainable chemistry through their own start-up. In addition to a laboratory building for entrepreneursbeing constructed on the TU Berlin campus, we were able to celebrate a further success in October 2022. Under the aegis of the CIF, 29 partners from academia and industry successfully submitted a proposal for "GreenChem. The Innovative Transfer Space for Green Chemistry in the Capital Region” to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of its “T!Raum – TransferRäume für die Zukunft von Regionen” funding line, which focuses on promoting transfer spaces in a region to benefit future potential.

As a result of the close relationship between research and teaching at the Institute of Chemistry, topics related to sustainability and green chemistry feature prominently in the Institute's courses.

Nearly all compulsory modules of the bachelor's and master's degree programs include links to the 12 principles of Green Chemistry and address aspects of sustainable development and production of valuable and active substances at laboratory and industrial scale. Thus, in addition to the classical triad of structure, property and transformation of substances, lectures, seminars and labs include these two additional cross-cutting topics.

Our master’s program in Chemistry also features an entire compulsory elective component comprised of courses with different perspectives on sustainability and Green Chemistry. However, other compulsory elective components in this and other degree programs also address these topics.

TU Berlin’s Institute of Chemistry was also the first European institution to sign the Green Chemistry Commitment of the international organization Beyond Benign, a group of institutions around the globe dedicated to making Green Chemistry an integral part of university education.  

In 2022, Dr. John C. Warner, who established the 12 principles of Green Chemistry together with Dr. Paul T. Anastas in 1998, was appointed honorary professor at the TU Berlin Institute of Chemistry. He held his inaugural lecture on 5 September 2022. Warner will thus intensify his commitment to teaching at the Institute of Chemistry, ensuring that green chemistry will be even more firmly anchored in the curriculum of the degree programs. 

This is also the aim of the Green Chemistry working group established by the Institute’s student initiative (Ini-Chemie). Together with instructors, it is developing ways to promote green chemistry in teaching, such as by developing new lab experiments.