30 May 2018

To develop clean chemical conversion processes based on renewable feedstock

Pieter Bruijnincx appointed Professor of Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis

Prof. Pieter Bruijninx

The Executive Board of Utrecht University has appointed Pieter Bruijnincx to the post of Professor of Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis at the Department of Chemistry. This new Chair will bridge research into homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis for turning renewable feedstock, such as biomass, CO2 and waste streams into chemical building blocks. His appointment further strengthens the interdisciplinary research programme ‘Pathways to Sustainability’ of Utrecht University.

Bruijnincx is an expert in research on catalysis for a sustainable future. "For the emerging efforts to establish a circular economy, we need to develop new, clean chemical conversion processes based on renewable feedstock. This requires new discoveries and advances in the field of catalysis and organic chemistry", Bruijnincx explains. While fundamental in nature, catalysis research has a strong applied component to it and many of his projects are conducted in collaboration with industrial partners.

Catalysis as key technology

A catalyst is a substance that itself is not consumed during a chemical reaction, but rather allows reaction to take place much more rapidly and efficiently, thus using less energy and producing less waste. The production of virtually all energy carriers and chemicals produced today would not be possible without catalysis as key technology. Catalysts will be just as crucial for the transition to more sustainable methods to provide for the world’s energy and material demands. In homogeneous catalysis, a – typically metal-based - catalyst is dissolved in the liquid phase, while in heterogeneous catalysis solid catalysts are used to convert gases and liquids.

The best of both

In his research, Bruijnincx aims to combine the best of both disciplines. "The chemical catalysis research efforts in Utrecht brought together in the Catalysis Center Utrecht covers the whole breadth of the field, offering great research facilities and expertise in both disciplines", Bruijnincx says. By moving from the Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis Group to the Organic Chemistry and Catalysis group, he now aims to further bridge those worlds.

Pieter Bruijnincx

Pieter Bruijnincx obtained his MSc and his PhD degree in Chemistry from Utrecht University, both with highest distinction (cum laude). With a Rubicon grant from NWO, he went to the University of Warwick (UK), to work on catalysis as a strategy for anti-cancer drug development. In 2009, he returned to Utrecht University in the Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis group as Assistant Professor where he worked on the sustainable production of bulk and fine chemicals from biomass. In 2010, he was awarded a VENI grant, and a VIDI grant followed in 2014. In 2016, he was elected as a member of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.