Nature based


Already since our predecessors, the alchemists, we know that plants can serve in many different applications. The term phytochemistry means chemistry of plants, which is a branch of chemistry and botany and is concerned with the chemical compounds and processes in plants. Compounds produced during the lifecycle of a plant can be divided into primary and secondary metabolites. Primary metabolites are important for essential functions, such as growth and development. Secondary metabolites have different specific functions and contribute to the fitness by interacting with the ecosystem and in further consequence by adaptation of the plant to their environment. They often occur in dedicated cells or specialised organs for instance the glandular hair of primroses. Plants use them also for defence against insects, bacteria, fungi or viruses and against oxidative stress (antioxidants). On the other hand secondary metabolites can also serve as attractants like floral pigments in flowers or volatile odorous substance. They can be widely distributed or be restricted to a specific group of plants so they can be used as chemotaxonomic markers [1]. Secondary metabolites are separated into three classes of compounds due to their biogenesis:

  • Alkaloids
  • Phenoles
  • Terpenoids

Because of the large diversity of secondary metabolites and many benificial effects on the human organism, they are especially of interest for phamacology and medicine. Different separation methods are used to isolate secondary metabolites, for example liquid-liquid extraction, distillation or distinct chromatographies [2].

One focus of alchemia-nova is the research in different applications of phytochemistry.

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Green Chemistry focuses on technological approaches to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources and prevent environmental pollution. It deals with research and industrial application of harmless product materials and processes with regard to health and environment and at the same time it aims at minimizing the use and generation of harmful substances. Therefore, it is also known as Sustainable Chemistry. Alchemia-nova’s contribution covers among other things the considerate extraction of vegetable substances (e.g. ultrasound in combination with enzymes).

These twelve founding principles (Anastas und Warner, 1998) of Green Chemistry are applied standard at alchemia-nova:

  1. Prevention
    It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.
  2. Atom Economy
    Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
  3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses
    Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
  4. Designing Safer Chemicals
    Chemical products should be designed to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.
  5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries
    The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.
  6. Design for Energy Efficiency
    Energy requirements of chemical processes should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. If possible, synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.
  7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks
    A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.
  8. Reduce Derivatives
    Unnecessary derivatization (use of blocking groups, protection/ deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided if possible, because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.
  9. Catalysis
    Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
  10. Design for Degradation
    Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.
  11. Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention
    Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
  12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention
    Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.


[1] Pharmakognosie-Phytopharmazie; Hänsel, Sticher, Steinegger; Springer-Verlag, New York, 6.Auflage 1999
[2] Rosenthaler L. (1928) Kurzer Abriß der Geschichte der Pflanzenchemie. In: Grundzüge der chemischen Pflanzenuntersuchung. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg