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Johannes Ranke
Research Interests
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Research Interests

Design of sustainable chemical products

As many chemical products have produced problems in the environment or for human health after their large scale introduction to the market, the idea of a precautionary design of chemical products based on as much risk relevant information as possible already at early stages of product design is convincing. Because of the large excitement around ionic liquids as new, possibly greener solvents or reaction media (among other possible applications), this is an ideal field for testing the concept of early screening risk analysis for new chemical products.

At least in my view, the problem of chemical antifouling on marine ship hulls is unsolved. For one, there is the problem of constant copper emissions from antifouling paints. Furthermore, judging from the scarce scientific literature about environmental fate and effects of organotin alternatives like 4,5-dichloro-isothiazoline-3-one (Sea-NineTM) or zinc pyrithione, surprises, both pleasant or unpleasant, are entirely possible. The way that these substances were chosen as organotin substitutes is not what I would consider sustainable product design.

Information Technology for risk analysis of chemical products

When confronted with the challenge of integrating data from a large amount of test systems plus observations in the environment and/or with a large number of substances to be evaluated, the need for efficient tools for data generation, retrieval, processing, storage and evaluation quickly becomes evident.

Having worked with relational databases with literature data, experimental raw data and processed experimental results for several years, I would like to enter the age of XML based data processing and exchange, because of several reasons that I have addressed in my talk at the GDCh conference in Osnabrück.

For improved transparency of the risk analysis process, I think that it is adviseable to use and develop Open Source tools. Two examples for such tools that I developed are the R packages drfit for dose-response curve evaluation and chemCal for working with data from analytical chemistry.

Test systems for early risk analysis of chemical products

I am frequently working with raw data from several bioassays, including enzyme inhibition assays, cytotoxicity tests, algae reproduction inhibition and growth inhibition of aquatic and terrestrial plants. While I am not actively developing these systems, I established some IT tools for working with these data, including databases for the raw data and a substance database with the results for ionic liquids.

A test system that I developed together with Anja Müller, is the measurement of the hydrophobicity parameter log k0 by reversed phase gradient HPLC for organic cations. For the cations used in ionic liquids, this parameter has proven to be a good substitute for log Kow when it comes to correlating hydrophobicity with biological activity.

Method development for comparative risk analysis of chemicals

For my PhD thesis, I developed ecotoxicological risk profiles, a flexible method to compare a set of chemical substances with a common application domain. They are based on the risk indicators

  • Release
  • Spatiotemporal range
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Biological activity
  • Uncertainty

Since then, this method has found some applications in our group, the most prominent being the comparison of ionic liquids with conventional solvents and recently also with surfactants.

Analytical techniques

We are using both liquid and gas chromatography for both ionic liquids and antifouling biocides in our group. My current focus in analytical method development is on organotin monitoring in small water samples, as well as development for convenient methods for IL anion analysis, mainly in cooperation with our analytical expert Peter Behrend.

Education for sustainable chemistry

By way of participating in the development of a new and more sustainable organic chemistry lab course, I entered the area of education for sustainability. While I am proud of the product where I developed the website of the project together with Reinhold Störmann, I could list many deficiencies of the resource we created, that we want to address in the future.

interests.html last modified October 24, 2007