As Junior Professor for Process Development and Raw Material Change, Dr.-Ing. Jakob Burger investigates tools for the development of innovative processes which use alternative raw materials. Aim is that in future crude oil could be supplemented and gradually replaced as the principal basis for chemical production. His research is concerned with developing special methods for evaluating new processes at an early stage. These evaluation methods are very important for the chemical industry in view of the increasing diversity of raw materials. Specific examples are also used to demonstrate how production processes based on alternative raw materials could be designed.
“With this endowment, we want to support the independent research activities of a young, creative scientist in an important field,” emphasizes Dr. Gerd Haderlein, Research Group Leader in BASF’s Process Technology department. “This initiative reflects that BASF is moving beyond the established and successful research cooperation models which usually pursue quite strictly delimited research topics with defined milestones.”
“Especially C1 chemistry will increase in importance, as it allows important feedstocks to be manufactured from natural gas or biogas via methanol,” explains Junior Professor Jakob Burger. “For the evaluation of alternative processes the reliable determination of reaction equilibriums and kinetics is necessary among other factors. The Chair of Thermodynamics of TU Kaiserslautern possesses an excellent know-how for this.”
A technology field of growing importance
Projects relating to raw material change are one important technology field in BASF’s Research Verbund. Here, BASF experts are engaged in identifying interesting processes for utilizing alternative raw materials and are evaluating these processes under technological, economic and ecological aspects. Olefins and aromatics, which are produced mainly by steam cracking and reforming of naphtha (crude petroleum), are currently the most important feedstocks for the majority of value chains in the chemical industry.
Natural gas is now already being used as a feedstock in a wide range of applications. Renewable resources, however, have so far only been used to manufacture specialty products in individual applications. In principle, CO2 can supplement the portfolio of raw materials for specific applications. However, the thermodynamic properties of this compound require a large amount of energy for any reaction, for example in the form of hydrogen.