Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and TU Darmstadt support four visionary sustainability projects
In April, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and the Technical University of Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt) announced that they were extending their long-standing research collaboration for five more years and aligning it with the topic of sustainability. The Sustainability Hub is a joint research platform, which started promoting visionary sustainability projects as of the second half of the year in the following four areas:
- Circular economy
- Digital sustainability
- Responsible handling of raw materials and new alternatives
- Innovative processes and procedures inspired by biology
"We are thus deepening our long-standing close partnership with the TU Darmstadt. The Sustainability Hub's focus on sustainable technologies and developments supports our sustainability strategy in the long term through joint projects," said Herwig Buchholz, Head of Group Corporate Sustainability.
Using a multi-stage process and with the participation of numerous experts from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and the university, the joint steering committee has narrowed 27 project submissions down to four. The Sustainability Hub will support the following projects in the coming years:
#1 Sustainable platform technology for enzyme-mediated plastic recycling
Plastic waste and recirculation of plastics pose a major challenge for our society. This project team from the chemistry department is dedicated to the biological degradation of plastics such as polypropylene and polyethylene using newly developed enzymes. This research project also offers valuable synergies with projects at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, dedicated to plastics recycling across the entire value chain.
#2 Manufacture of vascular human liver tissue through the integration of 3D bioprinting and cellular self-organization
When it comes to the development of new medicines, the use of cell culture models and organ-like structures is currently limited because the systems are not connected to a blood vessel system with oxygen supply. An interdisciplinary team consisting of members from the biology and mechanical engineering departments are addressing this issue. The team’s objective is to develop a 3D human liver model that can be supplied with oxygen. The project thus makes a key contribution to the 3R approach (replace, reduce, refine) for avoiding or reducing animal testing in the future.
#3 Energy-efficient simulation of an energy-efficient storage system (EES)² for neuromorphic computing
Computer architectures that are oriented towards neurobiological networks (neuromorphic computing) can drastically reduce growing energy consumption. The project by the materials science department and the electrical engineering and information technology department develops energy-efficient simulation tools for predicting material properties in energy-saving neuromorphic computer architectures. This shortens product development cycles and increases the energy efficiency of the system.
#4 Correct sustainability computing based on comprehensive life cycle modeling of products
Correctly calculating the environmental impact and energy footprint of a product – and therefore also of the company – is a challenge. This starts already during development and ends with disposal. The project by the electrical engineering and information technology department and the political science department takes an interdisciplinary approach to this task. They are implementing life cycle modeling in the context of a political framework using the latest IT-supported data collection and evaluation methods.
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