For a long time, benzene was known only by its molecular formula C6H6. Then in 1865, Kekulé first suggested a ring made of six carbon atoms. This, together with the application of the valence principle, enabled a multitude of structural formulas to be created for aromatic molecules.
The days of the universal application of benzene as a solvent are long over. Due to the carcinogenic effect of benzene, it has largely been replaced by the less toxic toluene. Today, considerable efforts are being made in “green chemistry” to replace organic solvents with aqueous systems and thus allow water-based process management. Sustainability can continue to be achieved through the use of new types of catalysts. Novel ruthenium catalysts in methanol reforming allow the cost-effective production of hydrogen for the operation of fuel cells. Toxic di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) in plastics is being replaced by non-toxic phthalate or completely novel emollients. New applications are continuously being found for the so-called “rare earth” elements. Nanostructures lend materials previously unforeseen characteristics of strength and elasticity.
Legal requirements for registration, approval and the restriction of chemical substances aim to ensure the highest level of protection of human health and the environment. Manufacturers thus face numerous challenges – in particular, the need to develop alternative substances and innovative manufacturing processes. Firms in the chemical industry are successfully doing just that.
Chemistry – Protect the New!