The use and end-of-life combustion of fossil carbon as well as the rapidly increasing consumption of limited mineral resources leads to a significant change in both climate and biosphere. The human footprints on Earth increased dramatically during the Anthropocene. Due to climate change and the supply of critical feedstock from politically unstable regions, the following challenges must be addressed urgently in the coming years:
● No fossil carbon
● Circular economy
● Efficient energy conversion
● Alternative feedstock
● Replacement of critical resources
Chemistry and related scientific disciplines can not only offer central solutions, but represent the innovation engine for a knowledge-driven industrial society. Without appropriate measures, current prosperity will be neither sustainable nor expandable. Fundamental, synergetic and interdisciplinary research efforts in this area are therefore essential.
Resource-saving chemistry includes the avoidance of both fossil carbon and rare and valuable metals. For example, precious metals such as platinum, iridium and ruthenium are used in traditional catalysis. It is therefore a very important goal to replace the rare and critical elements with readily available ones. In addition, conventional catalysis can be replaced by other activation modes.
Renewable raw materials and the resulting residual streams, which have so far only been used to a limited extent for the chemical synthesis of precursors for polymer applications or the construction of complex compounds, offer great potential for a sustainable economy. So far, these material flows have mainly been used thermally to generate steam and electricity.
The material use of these biogenic residual material flows for the production of fine chemicals and their use in polymer chemistry as well as in the synthesis of active ingredients still permits thermal use. Without going into the so-called fuel plate problem - after all, material conversion should not compete with food production. Instead of burning the biomass, it is highly desirable to use the material upstream. Only a small part of the primary biomass produced could easily cover the carbon requirements of the chemical industry.