De Europese Research Councils has granted two researchers of the University of Twente an ERC Advanced Grant. Han Gardeniers may search for new breakthroughs in the field of developing clean and effective chemical processes, while Detlef Lohse receives his second Advanced Grant for his work in the field of FLUID DYNAMICS.
Han Gardeniers (MESA+ Institute for nanotechnology) embraces the dream of a cleaner chemical industry. What can we do to ensure less waste and less energy consumption? Gardeniers may be responsible for a major breakthrough in this area in the next few years. He has received a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant to conduct further research into making chemical processes in for instance the fine chemicals industry more effective and efficient.
In the future, new, clean factories in the fine chemicals and pharmaceutical industries will benefit from these improved processes. Localized hydrogen production will also benefit, to be used as a cleaner fuel that will not contribute towards the greenhouse effect. Gardeniers’s proposed route is based on the implementation of innovative materials and precisely defined nano structures.
Gardeniers’s research is involves the creation of 3D network structures from nanowires. These are made using additive manufacturing methods (better known as 3D printing), which involves aligning active nanoparticles with high precision to enable effective and efficient chemical processes. This gives rise to symmetric structures that streamline the molecular and energetic pathways. “Other production techniques do not yet allow for structure development with such precision, and precision is key,” explains Gardeniers.
Gardeniers will also research how sunlight can be used as an alternative energy source in chemical processes. Gardeniers explains: “We see potential in this area because additive manufacturing enables us to focus on the thickness of the wires in the structure and at the same time the distance between the active nanoparticles that convert the light. Material composition of the wires is a relevant factor and requires further study.”
Gardeniers’s research will require him to design new production processes for the equipment currently in use in the University of Twente’s Nanolab. A new machine needs to be developed, involving integration of a microfluidic system in a 3D printer in such a way that the material can be tuned before it finds its way into the 3D structure. Multiple development of these new printer heads enables the envisaged structure to be created at even larger scales.
Transferring a substance, solved in one fluid, to another fluid: this happens in nano droplets as well as in chemical reactors that are meters high. Prof Detlef Lohse (MESA+) wants to thoroughly understand this process.
Bridging the gap
‘Liquid liquid extraction’ is a core process in chemistry. A substance that is solved in one fluid, ‘moves’ to another fluid when there’s contact between both fluids. It is a common technique in the paint and coating industry, in food processing and lots of other applications. At the same time, deep insight in the dynamics of this is lacking. This causes current applications to be mainly of a ‘trial-and-error’ nature, while the lack of knowledge seriously delays new and maybe promising applications. Detlef Lohse, Physics of Fluids Professor at the University of Twente, wants to bridge this gap developing new fundamental insights and experiments in the field of diffusive droplet dynamics. He is planning to do this on length scales varying 9 orders of magnitude: from nanometers to meters.
Complex droplet dynamics
Lohse’s group is known for its research on, for example, droplets on a surface. An example that illustrates work on fluids with multiple solvents, is the recent work on a simple drop of the ouzo drink, evaporating on a surface. This droplet contains water, alcohol and anise oil. Thanks to experiments, simulations and new theory, the fluid physicists know what happens inside the drop. Where do the components move inside the drop, and what would be the best timing for transferring one of them to another liquid? An experiment that looks trivial, in reality gives detailed insight in the complex dynamics inside a droplet. Better understand will, according to Lohse, lead to more applications of liquid-liquid extraction in micro and nano fluidics as well.