Werner Siemens Foundation funds research into the circular economy


Zug/Aachen – To mark its 100th anniversary, the Werner Siemens Foundation is endowing a project with 100 million Swiss francs. The choice fell on research into the more efficient recycling of plastics. Regina Palkovits and Jürgen Klankermayer from RWTH Aachen University are in charge.

To mark its 100th anniversary, the Zug-based Werner Siemens Foundation will invest 100 million Swiss francs in a research center for the circular economy. In a corresponding ideas competition, the catalaix: Catalysis for a circular economy project came out on top, the foundation announced in a press release. Under the leadership of Regina Palkowitz and Jürgen Klankermayer from the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen(RWTH Aachen University), research will focus in particular on catalysts for the efficient recycling of plastic mixtures.

“Until now, chemists have mostly looked for new catalysts that form bonds,” Klankermayer is quoted as saying in the press release. “But we also need catalysts that break bonds, and we have to think about recycling at the same time during production.” The aim of the research is to convert plastics into molecular building blocks that can then be used flexibly in various material cycles. Palkowitz and Klankermayer have already achieved initial success with polyethylene and PET. In addition, the plasticizer bisphenol A was removed during the process.

“We don’t want to completely break down plastics to synthesis gas or even burn them to CO2, but rather only reduce them to such an extent that they can be easily reused,” explains Palkowitz. It is also important to the researchers that the resulting building blocks are more sustainable. “There is no point in remanufacturing a product that is difficult to recycle,” says the professor. ce/hs