Der moderne Alchemist Paul Chirik
Paul Chirik ist ein herausragender Katalyseforscher, der unter anderem mit auf Eisen basierenden Metall-Komplexen neue Reaktionen möglich macht für die zuvor oft seltene und deutlich teurere Metalle benötigt wurden. Ein chemischer Weg zur Nachhaltigkeit und mein Nachtrag zur Falling Walls Conference in Berlin – wiederum in englischer Sprache.
What a the chance to listen to Paul Chirik who is one of the world’s pre-eminent inorganic chemists at the intersection of the traditional disciplines of organic and inorganic chemistry focused on sustainability. Paul Chirik from Princeton University, USA, is known as the guy who is breaking some of the toughest chemical bonds, like the strong triple bond (N≡N) that connects the two nitrogen atoms on an ‘easy way’. He is seeking for solutions that on one hand might allow us to maintain (most of) our living standards and comforts but reducing waste, pollution, the use of hazardous substances and energy consumption at the same time via new chemical reactions. This is part of the philosophy of green chemistry and sustainability.
Pharmaceuticals, moonboots, envelopes of fuel cells – they are all molecules out of the lab/industry. “We need to make them in a sustainable way”, Chirik says. Therefore Chirik and his research team are trying to discovering new transition metal catalyzed reactions that reduce energy consumption, minimize byproducts and waste streams, by a replacement of heavy metals in organic synthesis and catalysis with earth abundant elements. “Nature itself doesn’t use expensive metals for its reactions, but often iron instead”, so Chirik.
For example Platinum is a pretty rare and expensive metal of which mankind needs 8,6 million ounces per year for cars (as a catalyst) and 3 million ounces for jewelry. Now Chirik becomes the alchemist, which in former times meant someone who (never) could make gold from lead. Chirik is not interested in producing gold. But he wants to use cheap iron instead of expensive and rare metals such as platinum for plenty of chemical reactions.
The range of these new reactions with iron instead of platinum is pretty broad. Making biodiesel from plant extracts. Production of silicon chips, cosmetic stabilizers, a certain herbicide against most in New Zealand and more. This are concrete steps to make chemical production more sustainable.