Among the goals: Evaluate environmental impact, reduce hazardous substances in catalytic processes
In our series of interviews with people involved in Mistra SafeChem we have now come to Belén Martín-Matute, professor at the department of organic chemistry at Stockholm University. She is the leader of work package 4, Materials management and design.
What is the importance of Mistra SafeChem?
There is a need for the chemistry industry to become more sustainable. This means to develop processes that afford the needed chemicals with minimum formation of waste, and that toxic chemicals are either minimized or substituted.
Mistra SafeChem gives us a unique platform to work with experts in different areas with the aim of fully analyse specific chemical reactions and processes so that sustainable alternatives can be developed.
Another key aspect is the close interaction between industry and academia, working together towards a sustainable society. Through Mistra SafeChem we also aim at forging long-term industry–academia and interacademic collaborations.
Last but not least, sustainable and green chemistry must be implemented through all our educational programmes.
What is the most important contribution from your research to the programme?
My research group will contribute by developing sustainable catalytic processes to synthesize chemicals of importance for the pharma and petrochemical industries. We will work on developing catalysts that can mediate several synthetic steps in a single operational step, so called multifunctional catalysts. As a result, less solvents are needed, less purifications are required, and higher yields can be obtained. We will optimize the reaction conditions and compare the results with current alternatives available.
From your point of view: Why is this happening right now?
There is no time to waste to reduce the negative effect of chemical processes on the environment and on human health. This can only be done from an interdisciplinary perspective. As chemists and teachers, we have a very important responsibility towards our society.