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Industrial Sustainable Chemistry

Industrial Sustainable Chemistry

The Industrial Sustainable Chemistry (ISC) Group focuses on the transition to a circular economy and more specifically the transition from a fossil-based to a bio-based economy, connecting sustainable development and production of energy and chemicals. Emphasis is on novel chemical applications with bulk volume potential, 80% of which involves plastic materials and their building blocks (monomers).

Sustainability is one of the flagship themes of the UvA. This area is rapidly expanding and of high societal relevance as a result of global challenges in the area of climate change and related environmental issues, the finite nature of a broad range of fossil resources, as well as public policy issues associated with the exploitation and supply of energy, fuels and materials.

Research questions

The following critical research questions are highly relevant for the ISC research activities:

  • Can we make the transition to the use of (non-food) biomass as feedstock for the anticipated growth of plastic materials from 325 million tons in 2016 to 1,100 million tons in 2050?* 
  • Can we design closed cycles for the sustainable production of sustainable materials (“circular economy”)?
  • Can we help to solve some of today’s biggest societal challenges, such as microplastics in our oceans, and can we design better materials to reduce these problems?
  • Catalysis is critical to efficient and large scale chemical processes. Can catalysts be designed and developed from earth-abundant, cheap and non-toxic metals?
  • Can we efficiently use electricity to convert cheap feedstock, such as CO2, to produce chemicals?

*Ellen McArthur Foundation (3.5% annual average annual growth until 2050)

The ISC research group is aware that also the “non-technological” aspects of the transition to a circular economy are of great importance. Now that all 193 members of the UN have set the 2030/2050 agenda for Sustainable Development in Paris (December 2015), the question is how we can implement the transformation of our society to a circular one. Cross-sector collaborations need to be developed (communication, ecology, (environmental) psychology, etc.).