Group

Group leader

Prof.dr.ir. H.J. (Erik) Heeres
(h.j.heeres@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4174)
Erik Heeres carried out his Ph.D. research at the University of Groningen on the development of novel homogeneous lanthanide catalysts and graduated in 1990. From 1991-1999, he was employed at Shell Research B.V. and was involved in various applied catalysis projects. In 2003 he was appointed at the University of Groningen as a full professor in green chemical reaction engineering. Heeres joined the chemical engineering department of the University of Groningen in 1999 as an assistant professor. In 2003 he was appointed here as a full professor in green chemical reaction engineering. Heeres (h-index 40) is the (co-) author of 175 papers in international peer reviewed journals and 13 patents in the field of (applied) catalysis and chemical reaction engineering. He is a member of the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen and an associate editor of the journal Fuel Processing Technology.

Scientific staff

Dr. Jun Yue
(Yue.Jun@rug.nl; +31 50 363 6522)
Jun Yue obtained his bachelor degree from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Tianjin University in China in 1997 with specialization in Industrial Catalysis. He earned his PhD degree in Process Engineering from Université de Savoie (currently known as Université Savoie Mont Blanc) in France in 2008. His PhD work was focused on gas-liquid transport and reaction properties in microreactors, which was further supported by a joint PhD program with Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in China. Between September 2009 and July 2014, he has been working as a postdoc in the Laboratory of Chemical Reactor Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands where his research on microreactors has been extended to further cover liquid-liquid and gas-liquid-liquid systems. Since August 2014, he has been appointed as an assistant professor in the area of green chemistry and technology at the University of Groningen.

Dr. Peter Deuss
(p.deuss@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4918)
Peter J. Deuss performed his bachelor and masters studies in chemistry at the university of Amsterdam (UvA). This included internships at Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam and the homogeneous catalysis group headed at that time by Prof. P.W.N.M van Leeuwen at the UvA. After completions of his undergraduate studies in 2006 he moved for his PhD studies to the university of St. Andrews, Scotland (still UK) working on the development of artificial metalloenzymes with Prof. P. C. J. Kamer. In 2011, he stayed for two and a half years in Cambridge (UK) to work as a post-doc with Dr. M. J. Gait at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology on the development of conjugation methodology for therapeutics. From the UK Peter moved in 2013to University of Groningen where he worked as post-doctoral research first two years in the group of Dr. K. Barta at the Stratingh institute for chemistry on the valorization of lignin and afterwards one year in the group of Prof. H.J. Heeres at ENTEG working on the reactor design for the production of HMF from sugars. He recently (October 2016) joined the chemical engineering department as tenure track assistant professor green and smart biomass processing.

Prof.dr. Michel Boesten
(w.m.w.boesten@rug.nl; +31 50 363 8366)

Prof.dr.ir. Wiebren de Jong
(w.de.jong@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4267)
Wiebren de Jong obtained a chemical engineering MSc. degree from Twente University in 1991 and a PdEng degree in 1994 from the same technical university. After a post-graduate exchange programme at the University of Stuttgart (Germany) in the field of hydrogen storage in metal hydrides, in 1996 he started working as PhD student in the Energy Technology section of the faculty 3mE (department of Process & Energy) of Delft University of Technology in the area of biomass gasification. Since obtaining his PhD degree in 2005 he became assistant professor and in 2010 associate professor in the field of thermo-chemical conversion of biomass and hybrid biorefinery concepts. Since 1 January 2016 he is section head of a new section Large-Scale Energy Storage. Since 1 July 2016 he is also part-time professor (honorary, 0.2 fte) at Groningen University in the area of integrated thermo-chemical biorefineries in the Green Chemical Reaction Engineering group.

Dr.ir. Jos Winkelman
(j.g.m.winkelman@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4433)

Secretarial office

Ms. Marya de Jonge
(m.m.de.jonge@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4484)

Technical support

Mr Anne Appeldoorn
(a.appeldoorn@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4470)

Mr Erwin Wilbers
(e.wilbers@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4482)

Postdocs

Feng Yu

(f.yu@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4826 )

Supervisor: H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Strategy design for directly catalytic conversion of Kraft lignin to phenol
Lignin is the most abundant aromatic source on the earth and accounts for about 15-30% of organic carbon within the biosphere. Kraft lignin, a largely available lignin type, is obtained through the sulphide pulping process and is considered as an interesting lignin source for valorisation to bio-based chemicals. My research mainly focuses on the catalytic production of valuable phenol directly from largely available Kraft lignin source.


Idoia Hita

(i.hita@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4483 )

Supervisor: H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Development of active and stable noble-metal based catalysts for the depolymerisation of Kraft lignin
In this project we are carrying out the catalytic hydrotreatment of Kraft lignin (the most abundant and yet the most challenging due to its relatively high sulfur content) for obtaining valuable alkylphenolic and aromatic compounds. Traditional NiMo and CoMo hydrotreatment catalysts have proven to be active and stable in a sulfur containing reaction media but, however, a higher catalytic activity is desired to be able to maximize the monomer yield in the lignin oil. To this aim, we are developing and testing more active noble-metal based catalysts over supports of different physico-chemical nature (activated carbon, Al2O3, TiO2, ZrO2…), for gathering insights on their catalytic performance in terms of product yields and oil composition, and also their resistance towards both deactivation due to coke formation and sulfur poisoning. After a previous catalyst screening, the goal is to design an optimized bimetallic catalyst suitable for the process.


PhD students

Douwe S. Zijlstra

(d.s.zijlstra@rug.nl )

Supervisor: Peter Deuss; H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Green processing of lignocellulosic biomass
This research project is focused on the conversion and separation of lignocellulosic biomass into value added products using new chemical methodology and alternative solvents. Obtaining insight to which extent the physicochemical properties are altered by these solvents will be key into developing efficient separation and recovery strategies.

Special focus will be on the depolymerisation of lignin fraction into aromatics. This will help develop methodology for biorefineries in which added value chemicals from lignin can be obtained and low value applications (like incineration) can be prevented.


Tim G. Meinds

(t.g.meinds@rug.nl )

Supervisor: H.J. (Erik) Heeres; Francesco Picchioni

Project: Chlorine-free catalytic oxidation of starch using green oxidants
Introduction: One of the most versatile and adaptable biopolymer used in the food and non-food industries is starch and its derivatives. Oxidation of starch is done for two reasons: it lowers the viscosity of the starch in solution (degradation) and the introduction of carboxyl groups on the polysaccharide backbone (oxidation) decreases the tendency of linear parts to recrystallise. Oxidised starches find their use in the paper industry where they are used as surface sizing agent or as coating binder. In the current process sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) is used as an oxidant. Although hypochlorite oxidation is efficient and cheap, it is far from sustainable due to the formation of stoichiometric amounts of inorganic salts.

Research goal: Our goal is to find a safer and more sustainable alternative for hypochlorite oxidation using an environmental benign (“green”) oxidant.

Project in collaboration with: Avebe, SNN


A.P. Kristijarti

(a.p.kristijartie@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4486 )

Supervisor: prof.dr.ir. H.J. Heeres - prof.dr. F. Picchioni

Project: Synthesis and Modification of Functional Polysaccharides
Polysaccharides are major carbohydrate compounds in nature. They are renewable, CO2 neutral, completely biodegradable and have biocompatible characteristics. Moreover, polysaccharides offer a very promising source for materials for food and polymer applications. One class of functional polysaccharides that has the potentiality to be used for food and non-food applications (paper, textile, packaging, etc.) is represented by microbes. Functional polysaccharides can found in the surrounding environment with no obvious association to anyone particular microbial cell. Different kinds of functional polysaccharides produced by bacteria or algae. These functional polysaccharides are potentially interesting feedstock for products to be used as food thickener, gelling agent, and even for biodegradable plastic applications.


Zhenchen Tang

(z.tang@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4462 )

Supervisor: H.J. Heeres - P. P. Pescarmona

Project: Catalytic conversion of glycerol to fine chemicals
Glycerol is the main by-product (10 wt%) of bio-diesel, which is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. It is interesting to convert glycerol or its derivatives, such as acetol, to valuable chemicals.
In order to convert these compounds with high yield and selectivity to the selected products, we design and develop multifunctional heterogeneous catalysts by tuning the nature of the active species and by maximising their accessibility.




Qingqing Yuan

(q.yuan@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4826 )

Supervisor: H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: New synthetic routes for tetrahydrofuran-2,5-dicarboxylic acid from biobased furanics
In this project we will 1) develop efficient catalytic methodology for the conversion of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural to tetrahydrofuran-2,5-dicarboxylic acid (THFDCA); 2) Perform exploratory catalyst screening studies on both hydrogenation and oxidation steps using advanced catalysts; 3) To optimize the THFDCA yields and catalyst performance (including stability) for the selected process routes by systematic process studies.



Ria Abdilla

(r.m.abdilla@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4463 )

Supervisor: H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Sugar based platform chemicals
Numerous second generation transportation fuels and chemicals can be obtained from sugars. Lignocellulosic biomass is an abundant source of sugars. Fast pyrolysis can be considered as a promising and versatile technology to acquire sugars from lignocellulosic biomass. Levoglucosan (1,6-anhydro-b-D-glucopyranose) is an anhydrosugar produced during the pyrolysis of biomass. It is the primary product of cellulose pyrolysis and one of main compounds found in pyrolysis oils from lignocellulosic biomass. Levoglucosan enriched fractions can be obtained from pyrolysis oils by solvent fractionation and further purification. It is known that under acidic condition, levoglucosan can be hydrolyzed to glucose, a six carbon sugar which can be further converted into chemical building blocks like 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, levulinic acid and lactic acid. However, kinetic studies on the conversion of levoglucosan to glucose, essential for a.o. reactor design, are hardly available in the literature. Our project involves the kinetic studies on levoglucosan conversion to glucose under acidic condition with both homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts in batch and continuous set-ups. Furthermore we investigate the conversion of a sugar enriched fraction of pyrolysis liquid to lactic acid. We also explore the valorization of humin-like byproduct produce during the treatment of the sugar enriched fraction of pyrolysis liquid.


Xiaoying Xi

(x.xi@rug.nl; +31 363 4494 )

Supervisor: H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Studies on the catalytic conversion of syngas to higher alcohols
The rapid depletion of fossil fuel resources together with the focus on limiting greenhouse gas emissions have led to an increasing effort in the development of alternative and renewable energy conversion processes. The synthesis of higher alcohols from syngas is a second generation biofuel approach and is regarded as a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by replacing part of fossil fuels. Catalytic synthesis of higher alcohols, mainly ethanol, from syngas suffers from low yield and poor selectivity of the desired alcohol product. A good catalyst is required to impose a kinetic barrier to hydrocarbon formation while at the same time catalyze higher alcohols formation.
This research project is aimed to improve both activity and selectivity of higher alcohol synthesis by the development of improved catalysts as well as the exploration of novel, unprecedented process conditions with an emphasis on high pressures (> 200 bar). A commercial MK-101 methanol synthesis catalyst was firstly employed in a newly designed and built laboratory fixed bed reactor to test the set-up. The mass balance and repeatability for the experiment was good, thus justifying the technical reliability of this setup. Potassium promoted and activated carbon supported Co-Mo catalyst will be used in the future experiment to achieve a high yield and good selectivity for higher alcohols.


Angela J. Kumalaputri

(a.j.kumalaputri@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4483 )

Supervisor: H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Green gas by gasification of wet biomass in supercritical water
Gasification of wet biomass in supercritical water is an excellent method to produce green gas. The major advantages compared to anaerobic digestion are much higher reaction rates (minutes vs weeks) and production of a high pressures gas, eliminating an expensive compression step. We synthesize our homemade heterogeneous catalysts. Glycerol is gasified in supercritical water to produce a methane rich gas. The best results were obtained using supported monometallic Ru/TiO2 catalysts (2wt%), with up to 40%-mol CH4. Based on the recycle test and some characterization tests, this catalyst also show a good activity and stability.


Wenze Guo

(W.Guo@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4497 )

Supervisor: Jun Yue; H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: The development of efficient microreactor technology for the synthesis of biobased furanics from glucose
In this project we will explore the use of microreactors incorporated with tailor-made bifunctional solid acid catalysts in the efficient glucose dehydration to HMF in a biphasic system. Knowledge on fundamental understanding, design and operation of liquid-liquid-solid packed bed and wall-coated microreactors will be one main goal of the project, along with the development of fundamental insights into the preparation-structure-activity relationship for solid acid catalysts. Significantly enhanced HMF yield (comparable to those derived from the easily convertible fructose in the presence of a homogeneous Brønsted acid) is targeted at via process intensification in microreactors incorporated with effective nanoparticle catalysts.


Li He

(L.He@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4826 )

Supervisor: Jun Yue; H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Combining nanomaterials and micro-/milli-fluidics for efficient chemical conversion and thermal management
This project addresses the combination of nanostructured materials as efficient catalysts, and micro-/mill-fluidic devices as intensified heat exchanger and reactor, towards their promising applications in bio-based chemical production and thermal management. On one hand, well-defined nanoparticles will be used as ‘soluble’ catalysts (e.g., unsupported Au nanoparticles) in microreactors for efficient glucose oxidation to produce gluconic acid (an important biobased chemicals for food and medical applications). On the other hand, well-defined nanostructured catalytic coatings (e.g., Pt/Al2O3) will be immobilized in micro- and mill-reactors for catalytic combustion of methane for boiler applications. In both studies, an increased reaction efficiency is to be addressed via a significant process intensification and optimized catalysis in the developed micro- and mill-reactor systems.


Arne Hommes

(A.Hommes@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4462 )

Supervisor: Jun Yue; H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Intensification of chemocatalytic biomass conversion to value-added chemicals by multiphase flow processing in microreactors
In this research, the intensification of biomass conversion processes is investigated with an emphasis on continuous flow microreactors. Microreactor technology is a promising technique for the intensification of chemical reactions. Fast multiphase reactions that are limited by mass transfer can be accelerated in microreactors. The project includes both fundamental studies on gas-liquid and gas-liquid-solid hydrodynamics and mass transfer under reactive conditions, as well as multiphase catalytic conversion of biomass derivatives towards value-added chemicals in different reactor setups. The homogeneous oxidation of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and the heterogeneous hydrogenation of levulinic acid (LA) are performed as model reactions.



Susanti

(S.Susanti@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4486 )

Supervisor: Jun Yue; H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Continuous chiral separation in microreactors
Separation of chiral compounds into their individual enantiomers is important for the production of chiral active ingredients for the pharmaceutical, agrochemical, flavour and fragrances industries. Enantioselective liquid-liquid extraction (ELLE) has been reported as an attractive chiral separation technology. ELLE involves contacting two liquid phases, one with the racemates, to be separated and the other phase containing a chiral host with a higher affinity for one of the enantiomers. In the present work, ELLE is performed in microreactors. This approach holds great promises, examples are continuous operation, less consumption of the expensive chiral host and solvents and easiness of scale-up.


Monique B. Figueirêdo

(m.bernardes.figueiredo@rug.nl; +31 50 363 4463 )

Supervisor: H.J. (Erik) Heeres

Project: Oxidation and catalytic hydrotreatment of pyrolysis liquids
The use of lignocellulosic biomass for energy generation, biofuels and biobased chemicals has been boosted by the ever increasing global energy demand, allied with fossil fuel depletion and environmental concerns.
Fast pyrolysis liquids and their respective fractions (sugar/lignin) have great potential to be further converted into either valuable products or biofuels.
Catalytic hydrotreatment (HDO) is a well-known process to improve product properties, however, many drawbacks still need to be overcome, i.e. fast catalyst deactivation, lower carbon yields, charring, excessive gas production and high overall costs.
Besides the evaluation of new catalysts and conditions for the HDO, the project addresses mild oxidative pretreatments to further disrupt the complex biomass structure and make it more stable for further processing. The possibility of extracting high value chemicals from the oxidized bio-oil is also envisioned, as well as alternative pathways such as esterification and aqueous-phase reforming.








Master students

Robbert van Riel

(h.j.heeres@rug.nl )

Supervisor: H.J. (Erik) Heeres; Jun Yue

Project: Techno-economic analysis of monometallic catalysts for hydrotreatment of Kraft Lignin
As the worlds fossil reserves are running to an end, the need for sustainable alternatives increases. Phenolics and aromatics are crucial for the production of plastics, resins and many kinds of drugs. In this project research is done about catalytic hydrotreatment of kraft lignin, obtained from wood fibre and a techno economical study is performed assessing the potential of several monometallic catalysts for commercial applications.