Green chemistry for new organic molecules

​The transition from fossil oil to renewable raw materials is not only a challenge for fuel production but for the chemical industry in general as molecules deriving from petroleum are currently used also for the production of pharmaceuticals, new materials, additives and other products. Nina Kann, professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, has now received research grants from both the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Research Council Formas to develop new sustainable methods for accessing such molecules from renewable sources.

​In the Formas project, Nina Kann and graduate student Anna Said Stålsmeden are investigating how byproducts such as glycerol from the biodiesel process can be used as precursors to produce valuable building blocks for a future sustainable chemical industry. The methodology developed will also be adapted towards other molecules derived from biomass.

- As oil and other fossil sources diminish, we cannot expect nature to directly provide us with the molecules or chemicals we need in terms of drugs or bulk chemicals, says Nina Kann.

In the project funded by the Swedish Research Council, a new graduate student will investigate sustainable methods to convert aromatic molecules from lignin, a component of wood, into molecules useful for the pharmaceutical industry, for example. Employing a combination of enzymatic catalysis and iron-mediated reactions, the research group will develop methodology to access important molecular intermediates that are currently mainly produced from fossil sources.

- For future generations, we now need to develop processes that convert these raw materials into useful products with high atom efficiency. A prerequisite is that these new methods also adapt to the principles of green chemistry, i.e. minimum impact on the environment, energy efficiency and use of sustainable reagents and solvents, says Nina Kann.

The grants provide 1.8 MSEK/year for 3-4 years.

 

Text and image: Mats Tiborn


Published: Thu 17 Dec 2015.