Chemist Prof. Bert Weckhuysen (46) has received the royal honour of Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion. Prof. Weckhuysen is among the international leaders in his field and has earned a reputation for his efforts in applying his research for a more sustainable society. His high-level leadership, both within and outside the university, also contributes to the innovation and research strategy of Dutch chemistry.
Weckhuysen has been a professor in Utrecht since 2000, and in that short time he has worked his way to the pinnacle in his field, heterogeneous catalysis. His awards include the most prestigious scientific prize in the Netherlands, the Spinoza Prize. In addition to his membership in the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has also been named a Fellow in the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK, and is one of the very few non-Americans who have been named a Fellow of the AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Weckhuysen’s work focuses on fundamental research that is socially relevant and that may eventually lead to useful applications. Sustainability is one of the most important motivations in his work. One of his lines of research involves the development of catalysts for converting biomass into sustainable fuels and chemicals. In this role, he was one of the initiators and Scientific Director of CatchBio, ‘Catalysis for Sustainable Chemicals for Biomass’. In this research programme, Dutch universities, research institutes and businesses work together to obtain clean fuels, chemicals and materials from inedible biomass.
In 2013, he once again obtained funding for a large national research programme. In this Zwaartekracht (Gravity) programme MCEC, Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion, he brings together the top Dutch research groups in the fields of chemistry, physics and chemical engineering – disciplines that had not worked together often until now. With this interdisciplinary approach, the researchers hope to make a fundamental breakthrough in the production of sustainable energy.
Prof. Weckhuysen is also a pioneer in the development of techniques with which catalysts can be observed ‘in action’ at a high level of detail in a chemical reactor. This provides important new insights into the function of the catalysts. Weckhuysen is often successful in motivating businesses to work with him on the further development of these fundamental discoveries. His efforts have resulted in no less than nine patent applications, both for techniques for conducting research into catalysts in action, as well as for producing better catalysts. The techniques that his group has developed are increasingly used by businesses and research institutions around the world.
Soon after he arrived in Utrecht, Weckhuysen developed into a leader and ambassador for the catalysis community in the Netherlands. Over the years, the focus of his leadership role has gradually shifted from catalysis to chemistry and science as a whole. Today, he is a valued member of the Top Team within the Top Sector Chemistry and of NWO’s Chemical Sciences Division Board.
Prof. Weckhuysen is also convinced it is important to promote the results of his research and his vision of a more sustainable society among a broader public. One example of this includes his talk: ‘A city that runs on CO2’ during TedX Binnenhof 2014.
- More information about Bert Weckhuysen on his personal web page.
- Website for CatchBio.
- Recent press releases about his research:
Monica van der Garde, Press Spokesperson, Faculty of Science, email@example.com, 06 13 66 14 38.