Vici for Pieter Bruijnincx: “Make molecules circular-by-design”

Pieter Bruijnincx

Prof. Pieter Bruijnincx, Professor of Sustainable Chemistry & Catalysis, has been granted a Vici grant of 1.5 million euros from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Besides Bruijnincx, Utrecht University has six other Vici laureates this year. The Vici grant is one of the highest personal scientific grants in the Netherlands, giving researchers the opportunity to develop their own innovative line of research and to compose a research group.

Bruijnincx wants to contribute in a broad sense to making chemistry more sustainable. Chemicals and materials are still mostly made from fossil carbon and used in a linear way, with a focus purely on function and performance. As a result, these products contribute to climate change, pollution and the depletion of earth’s resources. “To make everyday products truly sustainable and circular, we not only need to use other, non-fossil carbon sources, but also start making completely different kinds of products. In this project, I want to tackle that problem at the molecular level and make materials that have the desired circularity directly built into the molecular blueprint. This is how we make molecules circular-by-design.”

I am very pleased with this opportunity to give a boost to green chemistry.

Strong boost

As a starting point, Bruijnincx uses molecules that are easy to make from non-edible biomass. With a simple but clever combination of chemical conversions, he turns these into chemical building blocks, polymers and energy carriers that are either recyclable, biodegradable or long-lasting as required. With the chemical trick at the heart of the proposal, Bruijnincx and his research group are giving the biobased economy a strong boost. “In this way, we can make everyday products truly sustainable and circular, from detergents and plastics to new energy carriers. If at the end of the energy and materials transition we are still making the same products, but from green carbon, we have really missed an opportunity.”

Pieter Bruijnincx: “I am very pleased with this opportunity to give a boost to green chemistry. I’m looking forward to taking some of my team’s promising leads significantly further, and am very curious to see what molecules and materials we will discover on our quest for more circular products.”