Zeolites, Heterogeneous Catalysis and Bioplastics
Research on the border of Chemical engineering and Chemistry
The research focus is put on...
1) Zeolite synthesis
2) Heterogeneous catalysis
The general aim is to invent new or improved microporous materials for renewable or sustainable alternative processes, or the processes themselves, for the production of fuels, chemicals and plastics.
1. Zeolite Synthesis
In this main research line, we explore the synthesis of porous, crystalline, tetrahedral oxidic materials.
The focus is put on aluminosilicate zeolites and silica-rich zeotypes:
1) synthesis in classic conditions using not-so-classic ingredients (what)
E.g. see here
2) synthesis and development of new conditions / synthesis equipment (how)
3) modifying the active site distribution of existing zeolite catalysts through synthesis (finetuning)
We try to gain new insights into processes that govern zeolite syntheses using an antifragile approach of trial and error, in order to discover additional levers to the outcome of the kinetic construct that is a zeolite.
2. Heterogeneous Catalysis
Although zeolites are beautiful constructs, materials need to be good for something.
This line of research focuses on heterogeneous catalyzed processes and reactions:
1) Testing new/custom zeolites in benchmark - but useful - reactions such as methanol to olefins
(for example: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acscatal.5b01577)
2) Exploring the introduction of zeolite catalysts in new catalytic routes toward useful chemicals and materials.
(for example: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/349/6243/78)
3) Inventing new, environmentally benign, processes for the valorization of gaseous feedstock and biobased platform molecules (all kinds of catalysts)
In these endeavors, kinetics, reaction engineering and thermodynamics are considered.
This research line focuses on biobased and biodegradable plastics.
Typically, we work in 2 areas here:
- Synthesis of novel renewable polyester architectures (linked with new monomers made via heterogeneous catalytic processes)
- Tailoring the properties of custom polyesters to specific applications (degradation, performance)
We try to bridge the scientific gap between building blocks obtained from biomass conversion and bulk, physical and reological properties of new plastics.
For this we work together with Prof. Bert Sels and Prof. Van Puyvelde https://cit.kuleuven.be/smart/people/00015835