At the TUM campus in Garching, top scientists research innovations that, among other things, provide solutions for climate change.
How do the academics work?
Münchner Merkur spent a day with chemistry researcher Terrance Hadlington.
- The possible salvation of the world is around 0.00001 millimeters in size.
The crystal is a bond of iron and the semi-metal germanium.
The scientist Terrance Hadlington created it in Garching.
He inspects the crystals under the magnifying glass.
The connection is a world first, the molecule does not exist in nature.
Basic research on the substance could save billions of tons of carbon dioxide in the future.
Hadlington plays a little god in his laboratory at TUM.
“We influence nature,” says the native Englishman.
It steams and bubbles in the rooms
Hadlington, 33, is a mix of funky young scientist and full nerd.
He researches and teaches at the TUM campus in Garching, Chair of Inorganic Chemistry.
In a decades-old laboratory, he lets molecules dance, the rooms are steaming and bubbling.
What exactly he does: He tries to use a bond activation mechanism to enable the “hydroamination of alkenes with ammonia”.
This is what it says on the TUM side.
What does that mean?
Just not a gram too much: Research depends on the exact composition.
© Gerald Förtsch
“Everything is inorganic chemistry,” explains Hadlington in English.
He starts from scratch.
Hadlington looks around his 1970s office.
The computer, the mouse pad with the illustration of a periodic table, his goggles for the laboratory: all inorganic chemistry.
So does fertilizer.
Make industrial processes more efficient
Every year food production uses huge amounts of ammonia for fertilizer, i.e. nitrogen and hydrogen.
Industry needs a lot of energy to produce the manure.
Three percent of the electricity produced worldwide, says Hadlington.
Accordingly, a lot of harmful carbon dioxide is produced.
In Garching, he is working on basic research with molecules that will make these processes more efficient in the future.
Hadlington and his team are currently trying to combine ammonia with alkenes to produce amines.
This requires large amounts of energy, known as catalysis.
About heat and pressure.
The emergency shower at the entrance to the laboratory.
© Gerald Förtsch
Foundation for future research
The novel molecule, which Hadlington now proudly holds in a test tube in his hand, is a foundation for future research.
He succeeded in making it on the first try.
“Very lucky,” he says.
Scientists usually do not succeed in designing a new molecule immediately.
Science is “trail and error”.
“The pressure on us scientists to deliver results is high,” says Hadlington.
After all, he and his team do research almost exclusively with taxpayers' money.
The added value of research is a bargain for taxpayers
Hadlington received funding from an industry association to begin his research in Garching.
“The money covers all costs,” says the chemist.
Material, two doctoral positions and his salary.
The added value that his research will enable through future savings in electricity and environmental damage is a bargain for industry and taxpayers, says Hadlington.
The motto: Think about tomorrow today.
The experimental setup including formulas.
© Gerald Förtsch
Like every scientist with his own research group, Hadlington is a jack of all trades.
The job demands that.
Reading specialist magazines, applying for scholarships, writing scientific articles, teaching, bombarding crystals with X-rays and mixing materials together in the laboratory.
The scientist is from a generation that thinks globally.
He studied and worked in England, Australia and the Netherlands, and did research at the renowned Oxford University in England.
“The opportunities for my research in Germany are the best in the world,” he says.
The reason: There is a lot of chemical industry in Germany.
Countless possibilities for sustainable solutions
At a time when climate protection solutions are becoming increasingly important, Hadlington is asking for the money to do more research.
“Inorganic chemistry is cheap.” In contrast, the possibilities for sustainable solutions are innumerable.
Only recently, Terrance Hadlington received another funding notification from the "Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft".
200,000 more euros for research to save the world.