Professor Lutz Ackermann from the University of Göttingen has been awarded a prize in the "Project of the Century" competition of the Werner Siemens Foundation (WSS). Ackermann's team and five others receive a prize of over one million euros each for their ideas. The award ceremony took place on Friday 16 June 2023 in Lucerne. In addition, the six teams will get the opportunity to apply to be a WSS research centre which would enable them to research and develop technologies for sustainable resources. Based on their ideas, the teams now have until the end of October to develop detailed applications. In December, a decision will be made about which idea will be awarded the contract. The foundation will provide funding of over 100 million euros for the research centre.
"The University of Göttingen warmly congratulates Lutz Ackermann and his team on their great success," said Göttingen University President Professor Metin Tolan. "We are not just keeping our fingers crossed for him for the rest of the competition, but will also do everything that we can to support the project together with the state of Lower Saxony. This demonstrates that sustainability has a firm place in research and teaching at our University."
Falko Mohrs, Lower Saxony's Minister for Science and Culture, said: "I congratulate Lutz Ackermann on his outstanding scientific approach to sustainable chemistry. He combines innovative basic research with rapid practical application. The team from the University of Göttingen has rightly held its own in an intense and high-profile competition."
Energy, fresh air, clean water, food and habitats are in limited supply on Earth, and science can and must contribute to the judicious use of these resources. For this reason, to mark its centenary, the WSS launched the competition and researchers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland took part with more than 120 ideas. Ackermann's research team wants to exploit the potential of sustainable catalysis: chemicals for medicines and fertilisers, for example, are produced in processes that consume a lot of energy – using fossil fuels and suitable catalysts to accelerate the reactions. To make this more sustainable, renewable energies must be used instead. In addition, new catalysts based on low-toxic, easily accessible metals are needed. The team's goal is to produce new molecules using wind and solar energy, with reactions that produce hydrogen as the only by-product.
At the proposed WSS Research Centre, the team plans to develop sustainable chemical processes by taking advantages of new strategies. These include electrocatalysts driven by renewable energy. This would allow synthesis pathways to be shorter, avoiding the formation of unwanted chemical waste.
For more information about the award: www.wernersiemens-stiftung.ch/jahrhundertprojekt.
Professor Lutz Ackermann
University of Göttingen
Institute for Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry
and the Wöhler Research Institute for Sustainable Chemistry