The topic of “Plastics and the Circular Economy” was the focus of the first GreenTech Expo.
Heike Lachmann

Into the Future with GreenTech

Having recently tackled the topic of structural change in the Rhenish Mining Area, the Knowledge Hub is now dedicated to advancing its new focus – GreenTech.

GreenTech stands for innovative green technologies and effective measures in the fight against climate change, resource consumption, and environmental degradation, and thus for sustainability. RWTH is pleased to be turning the spotlight on this new strength in the field of GreenTech – by putting on exhibitions, launching a new audio format, showing film contributions, and hosting various events.

Making a Clean Job of It

Transitioning from chemical herbicides in weed control to application technology and creating alternatives through chemical-free options is what stands for. To accomplish its goals, the team fuses fundamentals and technologies from chemistry and biology with those from physics, ecology, and agronomy. Using electricity as a method to control weeds is not new, but the process used by the Aachen-based startup combines low-voltage electrical machinery with non-toxic conductive liquids that fall under organic farming guidelines. This is how can help farmers operate more efficiently and consume less of the natural resources of water, land, and energy, all at the same time.’s story began in 2019 when the Teaching and Research Unit of Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the RWTH Institute of Biology III approached Dirk Vandenhirtz about a research project on vegetation control on railway tracks. The research project quickly turned into a startup. This story is a wonderful example, on the one hand, of how crucial technical solutions are in the face of today's immense global challenges – particularly when it comes to the threat of ever-accelerating global climate change and the destruction of the environment. On the other hand, it also shows how important it is for us to bring successful research from the lab to society – via startups such as this, for instance. The idea has now grown into an internationally operating company with – that is GreenTech. Green Technology.  


Dirk Vandenhirtz,
Heike Lachmann

The Knowledge Hub  

Green technology is the Knowledge Hub’s current focus. In this increasingly complex modern world with countless information channels and multimedia omnipresence, we must be able to find reliable information. It is, however, becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish the true from the untrue, the relevant from the irrelevant. This is where the Knowledge Hub comes in.

It was established as a new instrument to enable two-way communication between RWTH scientists, the public, and other target groups, such as the media, educational institutions, or political decision-makers, thereby promoting much-needed science communication and knowledge transfer to society. At its events and through multimedia offerings, the Knowledge Hub encourages open communication and stimulates a lively exchange of ideas.

At the core are matters such as these: How can we promote public trust in sound research and its findings? Universities like RWTH have a special responsibility here: We need to share our scientific expertise and bring our knowledge to society in a way that transparently and accessibly communicates the work of our researchers. RWTH takes its responsibility toward society seriously, and prides itself on being a modern university that gets actively involved in social discourse by offering innovative and sustainable solutions.

These are the overarching questions that are occupying people's minds: How do we want to live? What kind of world do we want to leave behind for future generations? These challenges spur researchers around the world to find sustainable solutions and then turn acquired knowledge into innovations thanks to strong partners from science, industry, politics, associations, and society so that we can all benefit from them in our everyday lives. This is where RWTH wants to come in.

“RWTH's vision is to create a unique teaching and research environment where knowledge is created and transferred to the next generation of scientists, as well as to industry and society.

We want to find solutions that significantly impact today's and tomorrow's technological and scientific challenges. Fittingly, we stated this mission in our successful proposal in the latest round of the Excellence Strategy competition.”

Bringing GreenTech to the People

To specifically advance the key topic of GreenTech, RWTH developed an approach for offering the general public information in a format that is quick and easy to grasp. For example, a GreenTech Expo was set up twice in public spaces at Templergraben and Campus Melaten. The first offered insights into plastics and the circular economy, and the second delivered information on energy. Banners measuring 3.50 by 1.80 meters showed visualizations of the University's research approaches to ensure long-term sustainability in our plastics consumption and featured innovative research projects for successfully managing climate change.

The first GreenTech Expo shed light on the fact that we need to integrate plastics into a sustainable circular economy more efficiently – they are an established part of our everyday lives, after all. It also showcased intelligent material flow management in plastics recycling and explained how plastic waste can be turned into valuable resources. Also addressed on the banners were alternatives for conventional plastics – such as PLA, a polyester obtained from renewable raw materials that is biodegradable – or how better catalysts for producing bioplastics are being developed, among other things.

Heike Lachmann
Heike Lachmann

The topic of “Plastics and the Circular Economy” was the focus of the first GreenTech Expo.

GreenTech Expo II – Energy

The second Expo presented new energy sources such as hydrogen and numerous RWTH research projects. For example, NAUTILUS aims to reduce maritime transportation's environmental footprint by introducing an alternative hybrid genset for passenger ships through electrification and the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG). GreenTech Expo II visitors also learned how noise reduction could create greater acceptance for wind turbines, how road surfaces or road infrastructure can be used for solar energy, how deep geothermal energy – i.e. using geothermal energy at depths of between 400 and 5,000 meters – can make a significant contribution to a climate-neutral heating market, or how startup founders from RWTH have succeeded in offering an environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional electricity storage systems with sustainable electricity storage from used e-car batteries.


New Knowledge Hub Audio Format Launched

With its new To the Point – Know More in 240 Seconds podcast, RWTH now provides quick and easy access to exciting and socially relevant research conducted at the University thanks to informative audio reports lasting a maximum of four minutes. In an understandable, direct, and entertaining way, RWTH experts from science, research, administration, and RWTH-connected startups get to the heart of what they do every day – also driven by a sense of responsibility toward society.

In this way, they not only generate understanding for their work but also prove that science and research can be understandable and entertaining even without much context.

Kicking off the lecture series, which can be accessed directly via the RWTH homepage or other familiar portals, was the topic of The Circular Economy. You can follow along as Professor Kathrin Greiff, Head of the Chair of Anthropogenic Material Cycles and one of RWTH's Rector's Delegates for Sustainability, explains the value of the circular economy for a sustainable industrial society. “We need to understand that in recycling anthropogenic materials, we can't start at the end, but instead, we must focus on the beginning, where it is that we want to meet our needs as a society and are dependent on raw materials to do so,” she explains in the interview. In the first episode, which consists of four individual contributions lasting a maximum of four minutes, Professor Lars Blank, from the Chair of Applied Microbiology, talks about using biotechnology for recycling and his MIX-up project. Dr. Montgomery Jaritz, the founder of the startup IonKraft, explains his approach to finding a new coating for plastics, and Professor Elisabeth Clausen, from the Chair of Advanced Mining Technologies, reports on the circular economy in mining in general and the Nivelstein Living Lab in particular.

Professorin Kathrin Greiff.
Heike Lachmann
Professor Lars Blank.
Peter Winandy
Dr. Montgomery Jaritz.
IonKraft GmbH
Professorin Elisabeth Clausen (links).

Federal Minister Robert Habeck Is Patron

His patronage also highlights the importance of the GreenTech topic: Dr. Robert Habeck, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.

“Green technologies combine both climate protection and economic innovation. Our economy has great growth potential in this important emerging field.

With their research, scientists create the foundations for future-proof products and services from which we all benefit and which strengthen the competitiveness of our economy,” explains Habeck, adding: “RWTH Aachen University is an outstanding ambassador and beacon for state-of-the-art GreenTech ‘Made in Germany’. RWTH is one of Europe's leading research institutions, and with its Knowledge Hub, it makes an important contribution to bringing transformative science and technology from the lab to society and industry. The University is thus instrumental in helping exploit the potential of green technologies for the necessary ecologically sound transformation of our economy.”

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Inhalt des Videos:
Film mit Ralph Caspers und Clarissa Correia da Silva

– Authors: Nives Sunara, Thorsten Karbach