First International Conference on Resource Chemistry ICRC successfully completed
The International Conference on Resource Chemistry ICRC organized by Fraunhofer IWKS was held for the first time on March 8-9, 2021. Due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, the organizers opted for a purely digital format. With success: More than 180 participants could be counted at the peak. As an international conference, the audience enjoyed 26 technical presentations by some of the most renowned experts in their field, including John C. Warner, who is considered a co-founder of "Green Chemistry".
The fact that the topic of resource chemistry is more than up to date was demonstrated not only by the high number of participants, but also by the lively question and answer sessions with the speakers. The audience was particularly interested in topics relating to recycling, criticality, recycling and the substitution of critical materials and elements in the respective areas of application - from magnets and battery systems to applications and the storage of hydrogen.
Panel discussion showed challenges and opportunities of Circular Economy
A special highlight was the panel discussion at the end of the first day of the conference. Dr. Matthias Buchert from the Öko-Institut, Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart from Leuphana University Lüneburg, Dr. Christian Hagelüken from Umicore and Dr.-Ing. Manfred Renner from Fraunhofer UMSICHT discussed the path to the circular economy with the two moderators Prof. Dr. Anke Weidenkaff, Fraunhofer IWKS, and Prof. Dr. Armin Reller, Emeritus Professor at the University of Augsburg. The participants took quite controversial positions on the role of regulation and economic efficiency versus self-commitment and industry engagement. Michael Braungart argued that the attitudes of companies and the general public in particular need to change: For example, he said, people should no longer talk about zero waste, but that everything should be seen as a nutrient. Nutrition management would then take the place of waste management. Manfred Renner sees challenges on the way from linear to closed-loop management above all in the necessary investments. Christian Hagelüken added that it was also important for the industry to have adequate legislation to clarify the framework conditions. Matthias Buchert also pointed out that new business models and a new product design are necessary - yet one must also deal with the materials that are already in the technosphere and their recycling. In the end, Prof. Reller summed up the role of chemistry for a sustainable future in a nutshell: "Chemistry helps us to reveal the metabolism of materials, matter and energy. The use of materials has its price. Socio-economic boundary conditions must also be taken into account. Any material solution should nevertheless guarantee a viable future."
Interdisciplinarity in action
The conference's interdisciplinary approach was also evident in the diverse content of the sessions, ranging from urban mining and recycling, critical raw materials, substitution design of functional materials and critical metals, circular economy, polymer-based and renewable organics, to green ICT and green materials for the hydrogen economy. Equally interdisciplinary were the about 35 poster submissions that were presented live within a short pitch during the conference. A jury consisting of the scientific committee of the conference and two representatives of Wiley selected the three best posters. Julia Kröger won first place with her poster on "Multifunctional & sustainable 2D car-bon nitrides for green hydrogen production and direct solar energy storage". Philipp Komissinskiy took second place with his poster on "Highly conducting oxides as substitution for transparent conducting materials and metal electrodes in microelectronic devices", while third place was awarded to Franziska Jach with her poster on "A low-cost Al-graphite battery with urea and acetamide-based electrolytes".
"Congratulations to the winners of our poster call. It was really not easy to make a selection from the abundance of excellent submissions - at this point we would like to thank all participants of the poster session. A big thank you also goes to all the committee members, the session chairs and the sponsors, without whom we would not have been able to organize this conference," said Prof. Dr. Anke Weidenkaff, Conference Chair of the ICRC and Director of Fraunhofer IWKS.
"The conference proved that resource efficiency and the linking of basic research with applied research and expertise from industry is a cornerstone for meeting the challenges of an efficient circular economy. Especially in the area of sustainability and resource conservation, processes and technologies play a crucial role. Only if we all work together will we succeed in making a world without waste pollution a real reality. And time is running out," Weidenkaff sums up.
Following on from the conference, a DFG priority program on "Resource Chemistry - Sustainable Cycles for Materials (SuCyMat)" was held on March 10, 2021. In this program, the approaches discussed at the conference were deepened once again and initial projects were launched in the area of theory- and sustainability-based material design, resource- and energy-efficient material production and use, and the closing of cycles through innovative material recycling processes.