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Developing disinfectant from plant waste: new research project at Jacobs University


July 9, 2020

It’s supposed to be more effective than previous products, more widely applicable and it will be obtained from plant waste such as coffee, quince or rhododendrons: researchers at Jacobs University Bremen aim to develop a new disinfectant in cooperation with the Bremen companies "ProPure – Protect" and "Just in Air". The Bremer Aufbau-Bank GmbH, a public bank of the Federal State of Bremen, promotes the research project. "We can apply our many years of research to an important topic that has become increasingly prominent with the corona crisis," says Chemistry Professor Nikolai Kuhnert. He is leading the project at Jacobs University together with his colleague Matthias Ullrich, Professor of Microbiology.

Nikolai Kuhnert is Professor of Chemistry at Jacobs University Bremen. (Source: Nikolai Kuhnert)

The duo has long been concerned with the antibacterial and antiviral effects of natural substances. The contact to the two Bremen-based companies was established through a television report about their research on rhododendrons. "ProPure – Protect" and "Just in Air" are specialized in hygiene processes in the food industry. Among other things, they have developed technologies that allow the spraying of disinfectants during the production process while people are working.

As part of its "Applied Environmental Research" funding program, the Bremer Aufbau-Bank is supporting the project with 100,000 euros over a period of two years. The aim is not only to increase the effectiveness of the disinfectant, but also to further develop the technology. Thus, for example, spraying in airplanes, public transport or hospitals during operation is to become possible.

Matthias Ullrich is Professor of Microbiology at the English-speaking campus university. (Source: Jacobs University)

Coffee waste products contain various antibacterial substances. "For example, we will use the outer skin of the coffee bean. It is removed before roasting and accumulates as waste at the roasting companies in Bremen," explains Kuhnert. The researchers also want to use compounds made from the remains of quince and rhododendrons. This way the scientists' many years of research will result in a practical product. "And it will be green, organic and sustainable," says Kuhnert.

Questions are answered by:
Prof. Dr. Nikolai Kuhnert
Professor of Chemistry
Email: n.kuhnert [at]