MESA+ University of Twente
Research Business & Innovation About MESA+ Storyline Education

Roald Tiggelaar (promotion date: 2 December 2004)

Silicon-technology based microreactors for high temperature heterogeneous partial oxidation reactions

Promotion Date: 2 December 2004

Roald Tiggelaar

Our research was a feasibility study into the fabrication of a microreactor for gases using silicon technology.
Something that small as the reactor we developed has certain advantages. It is easier to heat, and easier to cool, so it is easier to sustain the reaction and on a smaller scale you can test reactions that would get out of hand in a bigger environment.

We looked at both at reactions generating a lot of heat in general and the catalytic partial oxidation reaction of methane, completely controlling the reaction. It is impossible to test these reactions on a larger scale.

What was your thesis about?

Our research was a feasibility study into the fabrication of a microreactor for gases using silicon technology.

Why would you want to have a microreactor?

Something that small as the reactor we developed has certain advantages. It is easier to heat, and easier to cool, so it is easier to sustain the reaction and on a smaller scale you can test reactions that would get out of hand in a bigger environment.

We looked at both at reactions generating a lot of heat in general and the catalytic partial oxidation reaction of methane, completely controlling the reaction. It is impossible to test these reactions on a larger scale. With this microreactor we can describe the reaction kinetics in detail, thus investigating the possibility of the production of synthetic gases.

But this was a feasibility study, no practical applications were thought of as yet.

Was the principle of the microreactor never thought of before?

No, its principle is from existing literature. We solved a number of problems that previous investigators encountered working with such high temperatures, but on the other hand met a number of new ones that will need solving. But on the whole there is progress.

Yours was a co-study?

Yes, I worked with Poul van Male from Eindhoven. He saw to the chemical side of things whereas I concentrated on the design of the reactor in the clean room, which I enjoyed very much, producing a thing from the beginning to the end.

How often did you contact your counterpart in Eindhoven?

It really was a close collaboration, we telephoned at least once or twice per week.

So you depend on each other a lot; how does that influence your own research?

Yes, it did turn out to be a problem. Poul for instance started 6 months earlier and did quite a few things before I even started. The design of the microreactor was more difficult than we expected, so all the time Poul had to wait for actual results. And later we had to wait for his measurements. But on the whole I was in a less dependent position than Poul. It would have been much better if we could have started at the same time.

In what way was the design of the microreactor more difficult than expected?

The insulating material we used lost its insulating properties in temperatures exceeding 300o, ruining our membranes and we were back at square one. Only in the beginning of our fourth year we managed to solve this problem.

What are you going to do next?

I have a found job for 13 months here that I am very pleased with. I enjoy research very much and I am intrigued by microreactors and now I am going to work with similar technology in the Lab-on-a-chip Group. So this will be more application oriented with microreactors in glass. After that I will see what happens.

Have you travelled a lot in the past 4 years?

Not very much. The research did not go quite as I expected. The first designs we made all had certain problems and I was determined to build the ultimate reactor. So I needed all my time here. I did go to some conferences, especially in the beginning. A conference in Sweden and a sputter course in Anaheim.

What did you enjoy most?

The work in the clean room and the exhilarating feeling of making something that finally worked without a hitch and thus providing the material for a thesis that I can be proud of.