ChemSysCon Team at Freie Universität Berlin Receives Prestigious Werner Siemens Foundation Research Award
News from Apr 19, 2023
The Werner Siemens Foundation (WSS) has awarded the acclaimed chemist Professor Sebastian Hasenstab-Riedel at Freie Universität Berlin and his team a WSS Research Prize worth one million Swiss francs (1.017 million euros). The grant is intended to help researchers develop and establish innovative technologies to use resources more sustainably. Within the ChemSysCon project, scientists from Freie Universität Berlin (Hasenstab-Riedel, Timm John, and Rainer Haag) – together with colleagues from the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (Franziska Emmerling) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (Alexander Böker) – want to develop new chemical systems to convert sustainable resources.
Project among six finalists in the “Project of the Century” competition
The ChemSysCon project is one of six projects from the German-speaking world to be selected for the WSS Research Prizes out of 123 proposals. “The sheer diversity and quality of these research proposals and the enthusiasm, innovation, optimism, and willingness to take risks we saw in the projects really impressed us,” says Professor Matthias Kleiner, former president of the German Research Foundation and the Leibniz Association, and long-term member of the Werner Siemens Foundation’s scientific advisory board. The award ceremony will take place in Lucerne, Switzerland on June 16.
The six chosen projects are also the finalists in the “Project of the Century” competition organized by the Werner Siemens Foundation. This is aimed at helping to found a WSS Research Center dedicated to researching and developing technologies for the sustainable use of natural resources by providing funding worth one hundred million Swiss francs over the course of ten years. The Werner Siemens Foundation is planning on selecting the “Project of the Century” by the end of the year as part of its one-hundred-year anniversary celebrations.
Chlorine production is an extremely energy-intensive process
The ChemSysCon team’s award-winning entry centers on the new chlorine storage technology developed by Professor Hasenstab-Riedel at Freie Universität Berlin. Chlorine is one of the most important basic chemicals in industry, plays a major role in the synthesis of more than half of all products in the chemical industry, and thus impacts our daily lives like no other element. However, chlorine production is an extremely energy-intensive process. In Germany, the production of approximately five-and-a-half million tons of chlorine each year is responsible for more than two percent of total electrical energy consumption. Chlorine gas is also toxic, and despite the numerous regulations in place, the storage and transport of chlorine gas – a commonplace procedure nowadays – is still risky.
Renewable energy could be used more effectively for chlorine production in the future
Researchers led by Hasenstab-Riedel have found a solution to this problem. They developed a very cost-effective chemical chlorine storage system that binds chlorine gas in an ionic liquid with very low energy input and that can also be handled easily and safely. The team now wants to build on this technology and make it market-ready. “One advantage of this solution is that renewable energy could be used even more effectively for chlorine production in the future. Chlorine could also be produced in countries with high solar radiation and safely shipped to other countries for further use,” says Hasenstab-Riedel.
Chlorine-based ionic liquids could be used for recycling
These innovative chlorine-based ionic liquids can also be used in the chemical processing of waste. The team’s WSS Research Center would focus on using these and other ionic liquids to convert biowaste such as lignin, which is a byproduct of paper manufacturing. Currently, lignin is mostly incinerated, but in the future it could be converted into new commodity chemicals based on renewable raw materials. They would also work on further developing the recycling processes for electronic waste to recover important precious metals and rare earths.
The team made up of researchers from Freie Universität Berlin, the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research are hoping to acquire further funding through the WSS “Project of the Century” competition. If the ChemSysCon project does end up winning the WSS competition, it will not be the first time that Werner von Siemens has made a significant technological contribution to southwest Berlin. Back in 1881 he set up the world’s first public electric tramway for permanent service between what is now Lichterfelde-Ost train station and the main military academy for training officer corps of the Prussian Army in today’s Finckensteinallee – a mere stone’s throw from Freie Universität Berlin.
- Prof. Dr. Sebastian Hasenstab-Riedel, Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 (0) 30 838-68758 or -59860, Email: email@example.com