Bilateral projects

Until now, ARC CBBC has started up eight bilateral projects. Within those projects, one of our industrial partners AkzoNobel, BASF and Shell cooperates with one or several universities.

1) Cobalt-free curing of alkyds and of vinylester-styrene coatings

Many coatings dry via chemical crosslinking reactions, which are catalyzed by transition metal complexes. The toxicity of some of these metals is under review currently. In this project, we will search for alternative catalysts based on transition metals that avoid potential toxicity.

Project leader: Prof.dr. Wesley Browne (University of Groningen)
Project manager: Dr. Jitte Flapper (AkzoNobel Coatings)


2) Polyester synthesis using novel and efficient esterification catalysts

Aim of this project is to develop new catalysts for polyester syntheses with an attractive environmental and economic profile. These catalysts will lead to more eco-friendly processes and will broaden the scope of raw materials (including renewable-based raw materials) that can be used in polyester syntheses.

Project leader: Adri Minnaard (University of Groningen)
Project manager: Dr. Keimpe van den Berg (AkzoNobel Coatings)


3) The re-use of the by-product hydrochloric acid to generate valuable compounds

For AkzoNobel, the project concerns the re-use of the by-product hydrochloric acid to generate valuable compounds, thereby aiming to close the raw material loop, to reduce the carbon footprint and to support the circular economy approach. To be able to do this in an economically viable process, new chemistry and catalysts will need to be developed.

Project leader: Prof. dr. Bert Weckhuysen (Utrecht University)
Project manager: Dr. Coert van Lare (AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals)


4) Perovskite crystallization for stable and large scale printable solar cells

The project aims at obtaining fundamental insights in the processes that govern perovskite thin film formation and crystallization for photovoltaic applications. Crystallite size, crystallite orientation, surface coverage, surface roughness and interaction with the receiving surface are crucial parameters that determine the solar cell performance. One of the principal issues in perovskites currently revolves around stability. The significant strides made in recent time provide the opportunity to comfortably think of large scale deployment.

Scale-up of printing technology to GWp/a scale, necessary to impact global energy systems, requires intimate knowledge on the crystallization processes and their dependence on process conditions. Using a range of in-situ spectroscopic and X-ray diffraction techniques the mechanisms and kinetics of crystallization of organometal perovskite layers will be investigated in real time during film formation. This will provide guidelines to develop large scale and fast roll-to-roll printing processes for this promising new energy technology. 

Project leader: René Janssen (Eindhoven University of Technology)
Project manager: Dr. Sipke Wadman (Shell)


5) Fundamentals of reduction of Ni-based catalysts

Heterogeneous metal catalysts are amongst the most important industrial catalysts. During catalyst preparation it is of high interest to yield a stable and highly dispersed active metal phase. The reduction of these catalysts is a vital step in the catalyst preparation as it determines the dispersion and thereby activity. There has been a wealth of investigations on the mechanism of reduction, however, most studies were performed either ex-situ or with model systems.

This project focuses on gaining insights into the reduction mechanisms of nickel catalysts. In that respect, it is vital to study the evolution of the active phases of typical catalysts with a combination of complementary techniques. Along with the understanding thus generated, the project aims at improving the synthesis of current catalysts by influencing the reduction processes and beyond that leading to new and improved catalyst properties. 

Project leader: Krijn de Jong (Utrecht University)
Project manager: Dr. Bennie Reesink (BASF)


6) Electrochemical CO2 conversion: elucidating the role of catalyst, support and electrolyte

Producing a solar fuel, by reaction of water and CO2 captured from the environment is an attractive option to store cheap intermittent renewable electricity in a fuel that can be directly introduced to the market, with net zero CO2 emissions.

This project aims to develop electrochemical technology for this application by fundamental investigation (both computationally and experimentally) of catalysts, including metal alloys and innovative supports, and organic electrolytes. In order to screen materials and to rationalize the effect of each interplaying factor, a new testing unit will be developed wherein materials and operating conditions can be varied, mass transfer can be controlled, and in-situ analysis (both quantitatively and qualitatively) of the products of electrochemical CO2 reduction is possible.

Project leader: Dr. Wilson Smith (Delft University of Technology)
Project manager: Dr. Emanuela Negro (Shell)


7) Exploration of non-commodity zeolite frameworks for small molecule activation: acidity, reactivity and coke formation

Zeolites are widely used solid catalysts. Although there are more than 235 zeolite frameworks reported, almost all zeolite-based catalytic processes are performed by a limited number of frameworks. These are the so-called Big Five: FAU, MFI, FER, MOR and BEA. More recently, SAPO-34 and SSZ-13 with the CHA structure became important catalysts in e.g. methanol-to-hydrocarbon process and selective catalytic reduction of NOx.

Since industry wishes to develop more sustainable conversion processes, it is crucial to explore the properties of less conventional zeolite frameworks. In this research project, several non-commodity zeolite framework structures are investigated as examples of small molecule activation processes. To gather detailed physicochemical insights of these materials, a wide variety of bulk and local characterization methods will be used, while their performance is studied in the methanol-to-olefins (MTO) process as showcase. The latter allows making comparisons with current MTO catalysts.

Project leader: Prof. dr. Bert Weckhuysen (Utrecht University)
Project manager: Dr. Lukasz Karwacki (BASF)


8) Unravelling structure sensitivity in CO2 hydrogenation over nickel

Efforts in the fields of materials science have allowed us to create smaller and smaller metal nanoparticles, creating new opportunities to study catalytic properties that depend on the metal particle size. Structure sensitivity is the phenomenon where not all surface atoms in a supported metal catalyst have the same activity. Understanding the structure sensitivity can assist in the rational design of heterogeneous catalysts allowing to control mechanisms, activity and selectivity.

By making use of advanced characterization methods and a set of well-defined silica-supported Ni clusters (ranging from 1 Ni atom to ~ 10 nm Ni nanoparticles), we wish to investigate how structure sensitivity influences hydrogenation catalysis by taking CO2 reduction as a showcase. These findings may bring new understanding in selective reactant adsorption (e.g. H2, CO2 and olefins) and allow controlling both activity and selectivity hydrogenation catalysis over supported Ni catalysts, which can be a means for CO2 emission abatement.

Project leader: Prof. dr. Bert Weckhuysen (Utrecht University)
Project manager: Dr. Peter Berben (BASF)