Research

Our mission at TU Munich is to

  • Educate and train scholars at all levels
    • Understand catalytic phenomena
    • Design  and synthesize novel catalysts
    • Develop and improve catalytic process routes
  • Develop science to reduce carbon footprint by
    • New pathways for catalytic transformations
    • Using renewable energy and carbon resources to generate products at scalable level
  • Enable transformative chemistries by bridging between catalysts disciplines by exploring common reaction mechanisms and translate principles

The research group at TU München, consists of approximately 40 PhD students and postdoctoral affiliates, 5 scientists leading clusters of activities and 5 technical or administrative coworkers. The activities at TU München are supported by about 20 % direct Government support, 50 % from competitive German and European programs and 30 % direct industrial support. Our research activities address:     

  • Alkane activation by solid acids via multifunctional catalysis
  • Oxidative routes for alkane functionalization
  • Acid catalyzed C-C bond forming to synthesize intermediates and energy carriers
  • Elementary steps of sorption and transport in porous materials
  • Hydrogenation, hydrodesulfurization, and hydrodenitrogenation for clean energy carriers
  • Deconstruction, hydrodefunctionalization, and hydrogenation of biomass for clean energy carriers
  • State and atomic arrangements of catalyst constituents under reaction conditions

The need to lower the carbon footprint and the shifting nature of feedstocks require radically new approaches to synthesize energy carriers and chemical intermediates. Lowering the carbon footprint will lead to a more decentralized way of synthesizing energy carriers including the conversion of electric into chemical energy. The decentralized nature of chemical conversions will require catalysts that are active at significantly lower reaction temperatures and that are more selective than present day’s catalysts to avoid costly separations. Our research aims to achieve these goals by taking inspiration from catalysts used in nature, enzymes, and translating selected principles into complex inorganic catalysts, which some day may function like inorganic enzymes.      

The basis of this approach is to explore fundamental aspects of catalyzed reactions on the surface and in the pores of solid catalysts with the aim to understand elementary reaction steps during catalytic conversions. This knowledge is used to design and synthesize nanoscopically well-defined chemically functionalized surfaces and sterically constrained environments materials, able to catalyze sequences of reaction steps and to enhance the rates of these reactions. Characterizing the nature and structure of the catalytically active site, its chemical functionality and the space around it, as well as the molecules populating this space is the key to understanding. Especially the way the pores of the catalyst and surrounding molecules stabilize not only active sites, but also the ground and excited states of reactants intermediates and products is shown to be the key to successful catalyst development.
The synthesis and modification of the catalytic materials is controlled at the level of the individual chemical reactions during the genesis of the catalytic entities and their assembly to multifunctional materials. Our work combines advanced physicochemical methods to characterize organic reactions on surfaces and in pores including IR, Raman, and solid state NMR spectroscopy with X-ray absorption spectroscopy to characterize the structure and electronic state of these materials in stages of preparation as well as during sorption and catalysis. We have, for example, pioneered molecular spectroscopy for characterizing catalytic reactions in situ, using this information to develop novel complex catalysts with successful examples including xylene isomerization, alkylation of aromatic molecules and the generation of hydrocarbons from methanol as well as the dehydration of biogenic alcohols. The materials studied include primarily structured micro and mesoporous materials containing protons or hydronium ions, metal ions as well as metal and metal oxide clusters, Catalytic reactions explored are grouped in five clusters, (i) alkane activation by solid acids via multifunctional catalysis, (ii) oxidative routes for alkane functionalization, (iii) acid catalyzed C-C bond formation to synthesize intermediates and energy carriers, (iv) hydrogenation, hydrodesulfurization, and hydrodenitrogenation for clean energy carriers, and (v) deconstruction, hydrodefunctionalization, and hydrogenation of biomass for clean energy carriers. These activities will be aided by clusters exploring the (i) elementary steps of sorption and transport in porous materials and (ii) the state and atomic arrangements of catalyst constituents under reaction conditions.