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Nobel Prize Winners in Lindau

Jennifer Strunk recycles CO2

If you had to explain your research topic to your grandmother or your little sister, how would you do it?
We all know that we have too much CO2 in the atmosphere and that car and plane exhaust is adding more. Our idea is to turn this CO2 using a chemical reaction called photocatalysis into methanol and methane. These substances can then be re-used - as fuel, for example.

How did the idea of recycling become your passion?
It was the sight of all those slowly degrading plastic bags - I thought there had to be a better way. That's how it all started.

What is the one thing you would like to achieve before the end of your scientific career?
It would be a great achievement if we could take the reactions that we use on a small scale in the lab and develop them for industrial applications.

Do think that will work?
A scientist friend of my always says we should answer that by saying it'll be possible in 20 years and two months. Because that sounds as if we knew exactly what we're doing - which is not quite the case. But if we didn't believe it would work at some point, we'd have no motivation to continue working on it.

How do you motivate your students to come to the lab full of energy on a rainy Monday morning?
The most important thing is to always take the students' ideas seriously, to try them out and think about them carefully. Of course, there are days when my doctoral students feel like throwing the reactor out the window. Then I have to think about how we could do it differently.

In your research motivation you write that the problems of our time, such as climate change or the need for renewable fuels can only be solved with the help of science. Are there no other ways?
I think that a lot of people are just too lazy to change their behavior the way they should. Our research would make it unneccessary for them to do so. Instead of putting gasoline in their car, they could use our fuel made from recycled CO2.

How would you draw the place where you have your best ideas?

03.07.2013 DW Nobelpreisträgertreffen 2013, Projekt Zukunft, Lindau, 63rd Nobel Laureate Meeting Ort Jennifer Strunk

Jennifer Strunk has her best ideas when she sits at her desk looking out at the tree in the back courtyard. She has one of the few offices with this view.