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10/01/15

Creating the molecules of our daily life from alternative resources: Gonzalo Prieto is appointed as group leader

Creating the molecules of our daily life from alternative resources: Gonzalo Prieto is appointed as group leader

Dr. Gonzalo Prieto is a new group leader in the Heterogeneous Catalysis Department of the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. His group “Catalysis for commodity chemicals and fuel production” has the goal to develop solid catalysts for novel chemical processes to synthesize commodity chemicals and liquid fuels from carbon feedstocks such as natural gas, biomass or CO2.


From the polymers in textiles, packages or cars, to paints and cleaning products, our society leans on materials derived from a rather limited number of commodity chemicals, which are produced in large scale from petroleum. The same holds true for those liquid fuels on which our transportation system relies. The depletion of oil resources as well as environmental concerns are significant drivers to develop an alternative chemical industry based on more abundant, ideally renewable, carbon resources.


“Our society is currently highly dependent on the molecules we can create from petroleum. In the future, these platform molecules will have to be created from alternative carbon resources. This calls for a significant re-conception of our large-scale chemical processes”, explains Prieto. “Oil processing has traditionally involved the cracking of bulky molecules into smaller ones. On the contrary, a chemical industry based on other raw materials such as natural gas, (bio)synthesis gas or CO2, should lean on novel processes which can assemble the same molecules from smaller building units such as methane, CO, CO2, methanol, ethylene, etc. To move towards this goal, we seek to develop solid catalysts capable of driving these chemical transformations in an efficient and selective manner”.


In charge of running a lab in the Department of Heterogenous Catalysis


Prieto will be in charge of running a laboratory in Mülheim within the Department of Heterogenous Catalysis of Professor Ferdi Schüth. In addition, the chemical engineer will build ties with universities in NRW. He plans to get involved in teaching activities at the University of Bochum and to continue his current cooperation with the Physics Department of the University Duisburg-Essen in the field of microscopy.


Prieto graduated in Chemical Engineering at the University of Oviedo in Spain and obtained his doctorate degree at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ITQ) in Valencia. After graduation, he worked as researcher at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, and at Lousiana State University in the US. In fall 2013, Prieto joined the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung as an Alexander-von-Humboldt research fellow. “The opportunity to interact and cooperate with other groups at the MPI für Kohlenforschung which do research on material science, spectroscopic techniques, or energy storage and conversion, along with the outstanding scientific and technical resources of the institute, provide in my view a perfect setting to pursue our goals.”