Outlook on innovation

New chemistry enables new conversions

The questions pursued in the Sustainable Chemistry Research offer opportunities for opening up new fields of chemistry. Achieving the research goals will mean a substantial contribution to new, clean chemical transformations and to the conversion of solar energy and electrical energy into chemicals and fuels - and vice versa.

A long-standing challenge in catalysis research is achieving control over molecular detail while using cheap metals. In more chemical detail this refers to chemo-, regio-, diastereo- and enantioselectivity (tacticity) issues. The Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry aims at setting up a new research line for the development of new tools and strategies to achieve this goal. This could open up new fields of chemistry.


The development of catalysts for among others olefin methathesis, cross-coupling reactions, hydroformylation, olefin polymerization and (ep)oxidation reactions in the near past have already resulted in an enormous boost in this area over the past decades, which has resulted in several Nobel Prizes. The development of abundant metal catalyst may have a similar impact.

In the area of first-row transition metal chemistry, radical-type reactivity is ubiquitous and highly important. We recently started to learn how to control these radicals by using a combination of bio-inspired tools, and adapted our infrastructure accordingly. This offers ample opportunities for catalytic radical-type chemistry with synthetic organometallic catalysts, such as functional group tolerant radical ring-closing reactions under mild conditions, hydro-carbon bond transformations, new concepts in polymer synthesis and in catalytic electro-synthesis.

New transformations and conversions

The investigations in the Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry will partly build on this prior-art knowledge. The goal is to develop sustainable catalysts for (stereo)selective and atom- and energy-efficient (electro)chemical synthesis, leading to the new desirable clean chemical transformations.

This research further offers wonderful opportunities for the combined catalytic electro-synthetic approach. The development of new catalysts relevant for the conversion of solar energy and electrical energy into chemicals and fuels and vice versa is a topic of utmost importance for the development of sustainable energy resources in the near future. In this perspective, developing fuel-cell technology is especially important.

Published by  HIMS

3 September 2014