24 October 2012

Millions awarded in European grant to improve biomass conversion catalyst

Bert Weckhuysen, professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis has been awarded a grant of 2.5 million euro’s from the European Research Council (ERC). The ERC Advanced Grant is a prestigious European grant for experienced scientists conducting innovative high-quality scientific research. Over the next few years, Weckhuysen will focus on developing methods to improve our understanding of the synthesis and mechanisms of catalysts used for biomass conversion. 

Weckhuysen plans to use two revolutionary measurement methods based on scanning probe microscopy (which uses a highly sensitive probe and a laser to form images) to generate a detailed map of a catalyst material. Working at a high pressure and temperature with a scanning probe microscope fitted with new more powerful scanning probes, Weckhuysen has succeeded in observing the structure of new catalyst materials, layer by layer, at nanoscale. This technique makes it possible to investigate catalyst mechanisms, which will provide information to improve biomass conversion processes.

One of Utrecht's foremost researchers

Bert Weckhuysen (1968) has been affiliated with the Faculty of Science since 2000. His studies into the development of new techniques to analyse chemical reactions involving catalysts have been extremely successful. On 1 September 2012, Weckhuysen was appointed (the first) Faculty Professor of the Faculty of Science.

He also serves as scientific director of the Netherlands Institute for Catalysis Research (NIOK). Since the beginning of 2007, he has been the scientific director of the research programme CatchBio, which is financed by the Dutch government and the chemical industry and is aimed at developing catalysts for the conversion of biomass into fuel and materials. Since 2011, Weckhuysen has been a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and of Academia Europaea (Academy of Europe).

This Utrecht University scientist has received many Dutch and international distinctions for his work, including the DECHEMA Award from the Max Buchner Research Foundation (2007), the Netherlands Catalysis and Chemistry Award (2009), the Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis from the North American Catalysis Society (2011) and the International Catalysis Award (2012) from the International Association of Catalysis Societies.

ERC Advanced Grant

The European Union allocates a substantial amount of funding to pioneering research initiated by the outstanding researchers themselves. This personal subsidy is awarded for a five-year period to exceptional researchers who define the direction of research.

More information

Previous research conducted by Bert Weckhuysen:

Personal website of Bert Weckhuysen.

Press officer Faculty of Science: Monica van der Garde,
+ 00 31 6 13 66 14 38, m.vandergarde@uu.nl.