Chemistry as in Nature

green chemistry

Nature does chemistry in water, under room temperature and pressure and using life-friendly chemicals. This section groups EPFL’s research projects that get inspired by the way nature does chemistry, construct compounds and look at how we can use natural materials to do green chemistry.

Chemistry for biomass conversion to renewable fuels and chemicals

Our research focus on developing chemical processes for efficient biomas conversion to renewable fuels and chemicals. Several active areas of investigation are described below.

Catalytic reforming of biomass and fermentation-derived molecules to fuels and chemicals

Biomass pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis

Greener processes through the use of sustainable solvents

Research Lab: prof. Jeremy Luterbacher, Laboratory of Sustainable and Catalytic Processing


Carbon dioxide fixation

Carbon fixation is the process of converting carbon dioxide to organic compounds by living organisms. In addition to photosynthesis this process can also be achieved in the absence of light. Artificial carbon dioxide fixation takes its inspiration from nature, to develop catalysts that transform carbon dioxide into useful compounds, which should help to reduce dependence on petrochemical feedstocks. Research conducted in the LCOM is concerned with the development of new bio-inspired catalysts that transform carbon dioxide into useful chemicals. Many of these catalysts are based on naturally occurring compounds, or slight derivatives of them, and are sometimes combined with nanomaterials to enhance their catalytic performance. The products we have made using these catalysts include medicines, agrochemicals, fine chemicals and fuels.
Research Lab: prof. Paul Dyson, Laboratory of Organometallic and Medicinal Chemistry

Bio-Inspired and Bio-Mimetic Small Molecule Activation

[Fe]-hydrogenase is a newly discovered hydrogenase that requires one single metal (Fe) for function. In light of the central role of H2 in technologies (fuel cell) and industries (hydrogenation), studies on the structure and function of [Fe]-hydrogenases are of significant current interest. Our group has developed two generations of synthetic models for the active site of [Fe]-hydrogenase, and has used them as structural and spectroscopic probes. Just recently, we have successfully synthesized a model complex that mimics faithfully the unusual pyridinyl methyl acyl moiety of the active site. The chemistry of this model complex provides an important chemical precedent for the enzymatic studies.

Research Lab: prof. Xile HU, Laboratory of Inorganic Synthesis and Catalysis