A sunny September morning provided an excellent opportunity for Dr. Matthew Plutschack (Head of Strategy) and Dr. Rebecca Schweier (Head of Press and Public Relations) from the CTC to learn more about Central Germany’s chemical tradition during a visit to the German Chemistry Museum in Merseburg. The museum houses numerous chemical production plants that were in operation in the nearby chemical parks in Leuna and Schkopau until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Ammonia …

The pride and joy of the exhibition is an ammonia production plant that was in operation in Leuna for sixty years. Actually, the first reactor for synthesizing ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen was put into operation in Leuna in 1917 – a breakthrough for the chemical industry. The inventors of the process behind it, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, received the Nobel Prize for it. Since then, nitrogenous products, especially artificial fertilizers, can be manufactured from ammonia on an industrial scale – an enormous efficiency gain for agriculture. The ammonia synthesis chamber can be seen in the museum, including a functioning circulation pump, a mole pump and spindle wall.

… and butadiene

The butadiene distillation plant was also exciting. Butadiene is the starting material for the production of synthetic rubber and the eponym of the Buna-Werke in Schkopau, where rubber has been produced from crude oil since the 1930s. The plant was initially used for testing the process and was later operated as a test facility for other chemical formulations as well.

Many of the plants and machines on display were in use for more than half a century. Using a great deal of energy, they produced materials from fossil fuels that we can hardly imagine our everyday lives without today. But chemistry, and with it the technology with which we manufacture chemical products, must change. In the future, it must rely on renewable and recycled raw materials in order to close material cycles and produce less waste and greenhouse gases.

The Center for the Transformation of Chemistry wants to tackle this monumental task through transdisciplinary research and ensure that the Central German Chemical Triangle remains the cradle of scientific innovation. And who knows – maybe one day something made possible by the CTC will be found in the German Chemistry Museum in Merseburg.

The butadiene distillation plant


The butadiene distillation plant