Prof. dr. ir. B.M. (Bert) Weckhuysen

Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis
Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis
030 253 4328

The Weckhuysen group has been active for many years in the design, synthesis, characterization and application of catalytic solids for the manufacturing of our current and future transportation fuels, chemicals and materials. Recent research is devoted to the catalytic activation of CO2 via thermal and electrocatalytic pathways and the photocatalytic and electrocatalytic splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen, as well as the chemical recycling of plastics and the upgrading of municipal and agricultural waste.


The group is internationally known for the development of in-situ and operando spectroscopy and microscopy for studying catalytic solids under realistic conditions. This approach has provided unique insights in the working and deactivation mechanisms of catalytic processes, as well as in the internal architecture of solid catalysts. The goal is to shed detailed new insight in the working principles of catalytic solids while they work (i.e., at high temperatures and pressures, and under real-life conditions). To achieve this goal the group strives to build a “powerful camera” to chemically image heterogeneous catalysts from the level of the reactor down to the level of single atoms and molecules, thereby linking the different length scales of importance in catalysis.

More specifically, the following topics are researched in the Weckhuysen group:

  • Development and use of advanced spectroscopic methods applied on heterogeneous catalysts during preparation and real operation in order to develop structure-activity relationships for catalytic processes. Systems of interest are supported metal and metal oxide catalysts, zeolites as well as metal organic frameworks (MOFs) and zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs). The main emphasis is on space- and time-resolved UV-Vis, Raman, IR, and fluorescence spectroscopy as well as X-ray spectroscopy, diffraction and scattering  methods, often in a combined or even integrated fashion. Catalytic reactions under study are methane and light alkanes activation, Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, Sabatier reaction, fluid catalytic cracking, methanol-to-olefins, automotive catalysis as well as selective oxidation, biomass-derived oxygenates hydrogenation/hydrodeoxygenation and olefin polymerization reactions.
  • Catalytic conversion of biomass and municipal waste, such as plastics, to transportation fuels and bulk chemicals, more specifically the valorization of polyols, e.g. glycerol and sugars, via telomerization, hydrogenolysis and etherification, valorization of lignin, chitin and humins and related model compounds and the conversion of C5- and C6-sugars, including the selective hydrogenation of sugar-derived compounds, such as levulinic acid. This also includes the use of spectroscopy for monitoring biomass and waste conversion processes in the liquid phase (i.e., water at relatively high temperatures and pressures), including issues as catalyst stability.
  • Synthesis and characterization of ordered porous materials with catalytic potential. The focus is on the fundamental understanding of assembly processes of porous oxides, the development of spectroscopic tools to evaluate the synthesis parameters and the structural aspects of porous materials, including intergrowth structures, spatiotemporal zoning of elements, such as aluminum, and the processes of dealumination and desilication. The materials focus is on molecular sieves, including zeolites and metal organic frameworks. More recently, this topic has been extended to the detailed investigations of thin-films making use of atomic force microscopy in combination with vibrational and electronic spectroscopy, such as infrared, Raman and fluorescence microscopy.
  • Molecular design of transition metal ion complexes in inorganic hosts for catalysis and adsorption. Enzymes, the most effective catalysts in nature, are the inspiration source for this research. Catalytic reactions of interest are NO decomposition, methane activation and selective oxidation reactions. More recently this also involves photo-catalytic and (photo-) electrocatalytic applications, including solar fuels generation, including the construction of thin-films, which could separate and adsorb light molecules, such as CO2, and activate them with light or renewable electricity, harvested from wind or solar panels.

Prof. Bert Weckhuysen (55) received his Master degree in Chemical and Agricultural Engineering with greatest distinction from Leuven University (KULeuven, Belgium) in 1991. After obtaining his PhD degree in the field of Surface Chemistry, Spectroscopy and Catalysis from Leuven University (KU Leuven, Belgium) with honours (highest degree) in 1995 under the supervision of Prof. Robert Schoonheydt, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Israel Wachs at Lehigh University (PA, USA) and with Prof. Jack Lunsford at Texas A&M University (TX, USA). From 1997 until 2000 he was a research fellow of the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (NFWO, currently FWO-Flanders), affiliated with Leuven University (KU Leuven, Belgium).

Weckhuysen is since October 1 2000 Full Professor at Utrecht University (The Netherlands). Weckhuysen has been appointed as first Distinguished Professor of the Faculty of Science at Utrecht University as of September 2012. Since January 2018 he has been promoted to Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University. He was a visiting professor at Leuven University (KU Leuven, 2000-2005) and has done a sabbatical at Stanford University (USA) in 2012 and at ETH Zurich (Switzerland) in 2022. He has also been a visiting professor at Stanford University & SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (2013-2018) and at University College London (UK, 2014-2017).

Weckhuysen (co-)authored ~ 730 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals with an average number of citations per paper of ~ 71 and a Hirsch index of 109 (Web of Science, February 3 2024). Weckhuysen is also the author of ~ 20 conference proceedings publications, ~ 30 other journal publications and editorial material, ~ 30 book chapters, 4 granted patents and 8 patent applications. Furthermore, he is the (co-) editor of three books.

He serves/served on the editorial advisory boards of Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, ChemCatChem, Chem Catalysis, ChemPhysChem, Chemistry Methods, Vibrational Spectroscopy, Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Journal of Applied Chemistry, Applied Catalysis A: General, Topics in Catalysis, Catalysis Letters, Chemical Society Reviews, Faraday Discussions, Chem, Catalysis Today, The Journal of Catalysis, Chemistry-Methods, Chem Catalysis, and Angewandte Chemie. He is/has been chairman of the editorial board of Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, ChemCatChem and ChemPhysChem. He has been editor of The Journal of Catalysis (2017- 2022) and is currently editor-in-chief of Catalysis Science & Technology (2023-onwards)

He obtained prestigious VICI (2002), TOP (2006 and 2011), IPP (2020), GROOT (2020) and GRAVITATION (2013) grants from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). In 2012 he has been awarded an Advanced ERC Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), which was followed in 2019 by a top-up Proof-of-Concept (PoC) grant. For the initiation of innovative education programs, more specifically the Da Vinci Project, he received from the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO), on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, a Comenius Teaching Fellowship (2019) and Comenius Senior Fellowship (2021). He also received honorary professorships from Tianjin University (China) and East China University of Science and Technology (China) in 2023 and an honorary doctorate (doctor honoris causa) from Ghent University (Belgium) in 2024 for his outstanding contributions to the field of chemistry and catalysis.

Weckhuysen has received several research awards, including the:

- 2006 Gold Medal of the Royal Dutch Chemical Society

- 2007 Dechema Award of The Max Buchner Research Foundation

- 2009 Netherlands Catalysis and Chemistry Award

- 2009 Eminent Visitor Award of the Catalysis Society of South Africa

- 2011 Paul H. Emmett Award of the North American Catalysis Society

- 2012 International Catalysis Award of the International Association of Catalysis Societies

- 2013 Vladimir N. Ipatieff Lectureship in Catalysis of Northwestern University

- 2013 John Bourke Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry

- 2013 Spinoza Award of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

- 2017 Kozo Tanabe Prize in Acid-Base Catalysis of the Acid-Base Group

- 2017 Xing Da Lectureship of Peking University

- 2018 Robert B. Anderson Award of the Canadian Catalysis Foundation

- 2019 Karl Ziegler Lectureship of the Max-Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung

- 2020 Charles Casey Lecturship Award in Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry of the University of Madison at Wisconsin

- 2022 Frontiers Award of the Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion

- 2023 Chemistry Europe Award 

Weckhuysen was the scientific director of the Dutch Research School for Catalysis (NIOK) in the period 2003-2013 and of a nation-wide Smartmix research program Biomass Catalysis funded by the Dutch government and chemical industries (CatchBio; 2007-2016; ~29 M€; Currently, he directs a national Gravitation research program on Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversions (MCEC; 2013-2023; ~32 M€; funded by the Dutch government as well as a nation-wide Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC; 2016-2026; 11 M€/year, with a joint investment by government, businesses and universities. He was (one of) the main initiator(s) of these large research program initiatives.

So far, 87 scientists have obtained their PhD degree from Utrecht University under the supervision of Weckhuysen. In addiiton, Weckhuysen (co-) supervised one PhD student from KULeuven (Belgium), one PhD student from Technical University Eindhoven (TU/e, the Netherlands), and three PhD students from University of Twente (the Netherlands).

Weckhuysen is also:

- An elected member of the European Academy of Sciences (Academia Europaea, 2010-onwards), the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW, 2011-onwards), the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and Arts (KVAB, 2015-onwards); the Netherlands Academy of Technology and Innovation (ACTI, 2009-onwards) and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences (KHMW, 2010-onwards);

- An alumnus elected member of The Young Academy (DJA) of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (2005-2010);

- An elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC, 2007-onwards), American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS, 2015-onwards) and ChemPubSoc Europe (2015-onwards) & an Honorary Fellow of the Chinese Chemical Society (CCS, 2020-onwards).

He is a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion (2015) and received a Certificate for Achievements of the Christoffel Plantin fund for his contributions to the prestige and appeal of Belgium in foreign countries from the Belgian Ambassador in the Netherlands (2018).

Weckhuysen serves on many boards and panels for national and international research. For example, he has been president of the European Federation of Catalysis Societies (EFCATS; 2017-2023).

Associated with the function of Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis, Distinguished Professor of the Faculty of Science and Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University, the following ancillary activities are done or has been done within and outside the Netherlands:

- Chairman of the commission, established by the Ministry of Science, Education and Art, on the (further) development of the so-called "starters- en stimuleringsbeurzen", since 2022.

- Chairman of the commission, established by the Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW), providing an advice to the Ministry of Science, Education and Art on the concept of rolling grants to strengthen the curiosity-driven research at Dutch Universities (period: 2020-2021).

-  Chairman of the commission, established by the Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW), providing an advice to the Ministry of Science, Education and Art on the optimal division between strategic, thematic and talent subsidies within the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) (period: 2019-2020).
-  Board member of CW-NWO, the main Dutch funding organization ( (2012-2016). Chairman of the ‘Tafel Chemie’ of the NWO (period: 2018-2020).
-  ‘Chief Science Officer’ of Topteam of the Topsector Chemistry, since 2014 (before member Topteam Chemie, 2011-2014), established by the Ministry of Economy, Agriculture and Innovation, member of the Regiegroep Chemie ( (period: 2011-2023), chairman of the board of the TopConsortium voor Kennis en Innovatie ‘Nieuwe Chemische Innovaties’ (period: 2012-2023), executive board member of ACTS ( (period: 2003-2011) and member of the ‘Spelregels Commissie NWO’ (2013).
-  Member of TWINS (Raad voor Technische Wetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica, Natuur- en Sterrenkunde en Scheikunde) of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW; (period: 2013-2016). 
-  Board member of the European Federation of Catalysis Societies (EFCATS) (period: 2003-2023; treasurer: 2011-2017; president: 2017-2023), the International Association of Catalysis Societies (IACS) (period: 2003-2016) and the International Zeolite Association (IZA) (period: 2013-present).

-  Member of the TNO Strategic Advisory Committee Circular Economy & Environment (period: 2022-2023).
-  Board member of the Stichting Hoogewerff-Fonds (period: 2015-2023).
-  Scientific Advisory Board member of Scientific Advisory Board member of inGAP ( (period: 2008-2015); CASE ( (period: 2009-present); SusChem Nederland ( (period: 2009-2012); EaStCHEM ( (period: 2013-2016), the Chemical Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (period: 2009-present), State Key Laboratory of Catalysis (Dalian, China) (period: 2014-onwards), Cardiff Catalysis Institute (Cardiff, UK) (period: 2017-onwards), the Center for Catalysis and Surface Science of Northwestern University in Evanston (USA) (period: 2017-onwards), the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion in Mulheim/Ruhr (period: 2017-onwards) and Sustainable Chemical Processes Through Catalysis (Switzerland).

- Directorship of the European initiative, SUNERGY (; period : 2022-onwards), to foster the science and technology to produce fossil-free fuels and chemicals to create a circular society.
-  Member of the Solvay Scientific Committee for Chemistry (period: 2017-2025).  
-  Titular Member of the Physical and Biophysical Chemistry Division of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) (period: 2016-2019).
-  Member of “HERCulES” (Higher Education, Research and Culture in European Societies) of Academia Europaea (period: 2015-2023).

- Member of the ‘editorial boards’ & ‘internationaly advisory boards’ of Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, ChemCatChem, Chemical Society Reviews, Catalysis Letters, Topics in Catalysis, Catalysis Today, Journal of Applied Chemistry, Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, ChemPhysChem, Faraday Discussions, Chemistry-Methods, Chem Catalysis & Angewandte Chemie

- Editor of The Journal of Catalysis (2016-2022)

- Editor-in-Chief of Catalysis Science & Technology (2023-onwards)