With the microwave to sustainable carbon materials

Visiting Humboldt scientist Professor Jaya Narayana Sahu

One usually becomes a Humboldt scholarship holder by applying for a scholarship on the basis of above-average scientific achievements with the help of a mentor. In the case of the Indian Professor Jaya Narayana Sahu, it happened the other way round: the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation was so impressed by his research that it approached the professor at the Technical University of Brunei of its own accord.

Researcher impresses Humboldt Foundation

The decisive reason for the Humboldt Foundation wishing to recruit the Indian professor for research work in Germany was not least the extremely prestigious award of the so-called Prosper.Net-Scopus Prize for young scientists (YSA). In the Asia-Pacific region this award  goes to scientists who have made an excellent contribution to sustainability through their research work. Professor Sahu is able to flaunt a long list of gold medals and first prizes. The engineer of chemistry has been to many places and taught at several universities in the Asia-Pacific region, latterly as a professor in Brunei at the technical university. Before this he worked in Kuala Lumpur at the University of Malaya as a senior lecturer. He obtained his doctorate in his home country at the renowned Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

CO2 as raw material of the future

He is now in Germany. “The Humboldt Foundation enabled me to visit research institutes of my choice in Germany and to speak to professors there. I am very grateful for this“, he said. He decided on the Institute for Technical Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart and its head, Professor Elias Klemm, with whom he started researching microwave pyrolysis processes in May for 18 months - with the aim of manufacturing carbon materials from CO2 or other materials. 

The charming aspect of microwave-pyrolysis: it can define various carbon materials and generate them in large quantities. In this respect Professor Sahu is able to catalytically produce active carbon materials that contain foreign atoms with his processes and which in turn can be used as electrodes in order to convert CO2 with water to fuels. 

CO2 is therefore used for the manufacturing of electrodes as well as for the generation of synthetic fuels. The prerequisite for the sustainability is, however, the availability of electricity from regenerative sources. 

Convincing large-scale industry of the new process

“What we wish to achieve with our research work is carbon dioxide (CO2) also being used for the manufacturing of catalytic convertors, on which CO2 is then converted in turn to fuels. Some carbon nanomaterials can be considered for this that have a high porosity, do not contain metals and are more active than other materials. In this respect costs could be reduced and efficiency increased“, is how Professor Jaya Narayana Sahu describes the chemical process. This should quickly bring large-scale industry onto the scene.

Microwave reactor as new process to produce carbon from CO2

Professor Sahu sees in Elias Klemm the ideal research partner with “exceptional research qualities” for the ambitious scientific cooperation. Professor Klemm is of the exact same opinion. He is very interested in the microwave-pyrolysis process largely developed and patented by Professor Sahu. To such an extent that he has ordered the rather expensive microwave device from Singapore for his institute. The quite large special device that is to be delivered shortly and has only been built up to now by very few companies worldwide, allows the synthesis of carbon nanomaterials. 

40-year-old professor Sahu is an expert in the field of microwave heating. Even in his early research years he successfully registered two patents for this process and is able to show well over a hundred publications. 

Professor Jaya Narayana Sahu from India conducts his reasearch together with host Professor Elias Klemm on the microwave-pyrolysis process.
Professor Jaya Narayana Sahu from India conducts his reasearch together with host Professor Elias Klemm on the microwave-pyrolysis process.

After the 18 months in Stuttgart Professor Sahu wants to return to India in order to ensure environmentally friendly energy generation there with his research and the new findings. At least that is his plan up to now. However, he also has the possibility of extending his research stay in Stuttgart, something Professor Klemm not least would be pleased about since the likeable Indian is achieving groundbreaking work in his special field of chemical engineering. 

The head of the institute Elias Klemm and Jaya Narayana Sahu immediately hit it off. The families have also already invited each other to visit them. Professor Sahu also found his accommodation in Stuttgart with Professor Klemm’s support. He had the image of an industrial city he imagined to be bleak and dirty. He has had a very different impression since he has had his temporary home in the state capital. “In my opinion Stuttgart is one of the most sustainable cities ever“, enthused Professor Jaya Narayana Sahu with his hearty laugh.

Elias Klemm

Prof. Dr.-Ing.

Head of the Institute of Technical Chemistry

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