The 2011 Hamburg Science Award winner is Prof. Dr. Ferdi Schüth, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim an der Ruhr. The award was granted in recognition of Professor Schüth’s pioneering catalysis research, especially in hydrogen storage, natural gas utilization and the use of biomass to synthesise fuels and basic chemicals. The development and application of catalytic materials to reduce energy and raw material inputs in chemical reaction is the main focus of Ferdi Schüth’s comprehensive scientific work. He is currently working on the development of a technical process for extracting second-generation biofuels from wood and cellulose. This “saccharification” of wood could thus serve as the basis for the production of fuels and chemicals. Unlike the fruit and plants from which first-generation biofuels are extracted, the renewable raw materials wood and cellulose – so-called non-food biomass – are not foodstuffs.
Born in Warstein, North Rhine-Westphalia, in 1960, Ferdi Schüth took his PhD in Münster in 1988 and his second PhD at the Department of Physical Chemistry in Mainz in 1995. Later that year he was appointed a full professor of anorganic chemistry at the University of Frankfurt. Since 1998 he has been director of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim an der Ruhr and since 2000 he has also taught as an honorary professor at the Ruhr-University Bochum. Along with his PhD in chemistry he graduated in law. In addition to over 350 publications he has registered and applied for 20 patents and founded a successful company, hte AG.
Ferdi Schüth was awarded inter alia the Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) in 2003 and nominated in 2010 for the German Future Prize, the Federal President’s prize for technology and innovation. He is a member of acatech, National Academy of Science and Engineering, the Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences and the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanties and the Arts.
In granting the Hamburg Science Award the Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Hamburg underscores the importance of science in the region and sets standards for topics of scientific and societal importance. In 2011 it was energy research’s turn. In Germany, energy research serves to ensure a cost-conscious and sustainable future energy supply in the conflict between climate and environmental protection and security of supplies. Energy research is also involved in work on new technology options that are not yet the centre of interest as options for political or industrial action. Energy research serves to work systematically on interdisciplinary solutions in the provision, transportation, distribution, storage and utilization of energy taking into consideration natural, technical, social, political, cultural and economic interrelationships.
The award first granted in 2009, is funded by the Hamburgische Stiftung für Wissenschaften, Entwicklung und Kultur Helmut und Hannelore Greve (Hamburg Foundation for Science, Development, and Culture Helmut and Hannelore Greve) and comes with €100,000 in prize money. It is awarded to a scientist or research group that is working in Germany.