In 1965, the institute was founded under the name “Institute of Technical Chemistry I” as the foundation stone of the newly established program “chemical engineering”. The first head was Prof. Dr. Hanns Hofmann who managed the institute until 1992. Prof. Hofmann planned and organized the courses of chemical engineering in Erlangen and established the curriculum as an example for other German universities. In these early days of the technical faculty, the institute was an integral part of most teaching and research in this field. In the following years and with the extension of the field of chemical engineering in Erlangen, the main focus of Prof. Hofmann was set on his core competence: chemical reaction engineering.

In late 1992 Prof. Dr. Gerhard Emig was appointed head of the institute. Under his leadership, the institute developed towards an internationally, highly recognized competence center for the reaction engineering of heterogeneously catalyzed gas and liquid-phase reactions. In these years, catalyst optimization, reactor modeling and the development of novel reactor concepts were focus of the institute’s research.

Since October 2003, Prof. Dr. Peter Wassersscheid is head of the institute. With his appointment, the focus of research gradually stirred towards other topics – whilst established knowledge in both scientific and didactics were conserved. More and more homogenously catalyzed reactions are investigated and optimized in order to open new avenues of research. The focus of research is the immobilization of homogeneous catalysts to provide simple “heterogenized” catalysts for continuous industrial processes. Other research topics within the institute are valorization of biomass, development of porous materials and their application in catalysis (Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Schwieger), carbide-derived carbon materials and chemical vapor deposition (Prof. Dr. Bastian Etzold).