With the inauguration of the TUM Catalysis Research Center (CRC), the Technical University of Munich (TUM) sets an international highlight in the field of catalysis research. Scientists from five departments, as well as industrial cooperation partners, will collaborate on research under one roof to meet the challenges of energy and resource saving production of chemical raw materials, fine chemicals and pharmaceutical products.
Due to the supra-regional significance of the center, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) contributed to the total construction cost of 84,5 million euro for the newly erected facility.
The TUM Catalysis Research Center seen from the east (Photo: Andreas Heddergott / TUM).
Catalysts are the key to sustainable, energy and resource conserving chemical conversion of materials. The use of biogenic raw materials in the future, as well as the extraction, storage and conversion of energy depends on advances in applied catalyst research.
The global market for catalysts has topped 18 billion euros and continues to grow. Yet, even fundamental problems like the catalytic utilisation of natural gas (methane) to produce refined intermediary chemical products remain unsolved.
In its new research facility, the TU Munich will tackle the interdisciplinary challenges of modern catalysis as a systems science, bundling available competency from the Departments of Chemistry and Physics and augmenting them with approaches from engineering, computer science and mathematics.
“In this kind of research, there are no longer borders between the classical disciplines of engineering and natural sciences. Under the shared roof of the Catalysis Research Centre we bring widely divergent methodological approaches to convergence,” says TUM President Prof Wolfgang A Hermann, who, himself a catalysis researcher, initiated the new research facility. “The product diversity of our technological society will be feasible in the future only if valuable products are produced, excess products decomposed and harmful products avoided through the use of specific catalysts.”
The Catalyst Research Centre is tightly linked methodically and thematically with existing campus facilities like the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics, and Computer Science, as well as the research center for white biotechnology and the TUM International Graduate School of Science and Engineering (IGSSE), a result of the Excellence Initiative 2006. This is flanked by the newly founded research centere for synthetic biotechnology (supported by the Werner Siemens-Stiftung) and various infrastructure facilities, in particular the research neutron source of the Bavarian NMR Centere and the supercomputers of the Leibniz Computing Centre.
TUM used the planning and construction phases to establish new catalysis-relevant professorships. Associated with the CRC are research activities of the Competence Centerefor Renewable Raw Materials in Straubing where, among other things, ethanol is produced biocatalytically from agricultural products.
“The completed expansion of the biochemical and biophysical research facilities at TUM – also with multiple new professorships – strengthens the catalysis focus in the biopharmaceutical domain,” said TUM President Wolfgang A Hermann.
“Hardly any product of the chemical industry would be economically and ecologically feasible without catalysts. Catalysis research is thus a key technology – especially in a raw material poor country like Germany,” said Stefan Müller, parliamentary state secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
With over 1200 scientific publications and more than 200 patents, Tobin Marks from the Northwestern University in Illinois/USA is among the leading researchers worldwide in the field of organometallic chemistry, which has been a research domain of TUM for many years as well and has received much impetus here. His research results have enabled key developments in industrial applications. Marks has previously been distinguished with the Wilhelm-Manchot Prize of the Chemistry Department and is also a TUM Distinguished Affiliated Professor.