The ‘ONE-FLOW’ project has received €4m in funding under the Horizon 2020 programme to develop environmentally friendly chemical reactions.
Professor Dr Harald Gröger from the Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec) and Chair of Organic Chemistry I of Bielefeld University, Germany, is the head of the ONE-FLOW sub-project.
Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, is co-ordinating the ONE-FLOW project with eight partners. Gröger’s research team is working closely with Professor Dr Volker Hessel’s team from Eindhoven. Hessel is the project co-ordinator and an expert on micro-reaction technology and flow chemistry.
Gröger said: “Because of the many stages in production, the current batch reactor-type vessel technology is particularly time-consuming. A further disadvantage is that work-up and isolation of intermediates lead to many waste products. Hence, the technology does not use raw materials efficiently.
“After every stage in production, the intermediate is typically purified. This might require significant amounts of solvent that then become waste products.
“The flow method offers a way to reduce resource requirements and save waste, thus making production not only economically more attractive but also more sustainable.”
Gröger and his colleagues take their inspiration for the flow technology from Nature. In biological cells, chemical processes proceed concurrently and constantly as so-called ‘domino reactions’.
“We are developing methods that will ensure that each reaction is shielded,” said Gröger.
Gröger’s research team is specialised in the combination of bio- and chemo-catalysts. In Nature, biocatalysts are found in the form of enzymes. Chemocatalysts, in contrast, are developed artificially.
“By combining chemo- and biocatalysts in a flow reactor, we want to efficiently produce pharmaceutically relevant products at room temperature and thereby produce them in a more sustainable and specific mode,” added Gröger.