DTU Chemistry - Søren Kegnæs

Designing Catalysts for the Future

Wednesday 28 Jun 17
Pioneering the field of highly selective heterogeneous nanoparticle catalysts Associate Professor Søren Kegnæs from Centre for Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry at DTU Chemistry was granted a total of DKK 13,5 million supporting two distinctive research projects in 2016.

The Danish Council for Independent Research granted DKK 6,5 million in a DFF Starting Grant supporting the effort to design bifunctional heterogeneous catalysts for the chemical industry.

Catalysts are vital in accelerating and facilitating chemical processes making them essential in close to 90% of all commercially produced chemical products worth an estimated 1000 billion dollars worldwide. Therefore, designing better catalysts for a variety of chemical processes has an enormous economic potential.

Being the world’s largest industry with an immense impact on global energy consumption and CO2 dispersion, focus on sustainable processes in the chemical industry is notable and at the same time, the ability of well-designed catalysts to reduce the amount poisonous byproducts and environmentally hazardous waste associated with many chemical production processes generates considerable interest.

This is one of the reasons Søren Kegnæs work with catalysts is attracting so much attention. “Our catalysts are ‘tweaked’ synthetic minerals with a unique structure”, he explains.

“By adding different elements to the structure, we can enhance the catalytic capacity and target specific, new reactions relevant for clean tech and more sustainable chemical production forms. Today we have a fair understanding of what it takes to design an efficient catalyst. To create next generation of even more efficient catalysts and thereby facilitate a more sustainable chemical production, we need to control the synthesis of new materials on an atomic scale”.

“This grant allows my team to explore new and exciting ideas on a longer scale, hopefully raising the bar for what’s possible in my area of research”, Søren Kegnæs explains. Since the release of the grant, he worked hard to establish the team of young researchers and has begun setting up the reactor rigs needed for the research.

The Villum Young Investigators Programme granted DKK 7 million to support Søren Kegnæs’ effort to engineer highly selective heterogeneous nanoparticle catalysis vital for many processes in the chemical industry.

Nano metal catalysis is well-known in the automotive industry, coating industry and other large production industries, but the metal nanoparticles are often prone to sintering, which decreases the catalytic activity over time. In spite of the aforementioned technological, environmental, and economic interests, general methods for the stabilization of metal nanoparticles against sintering are missing.

Søren Kegnæs and his team have developed several different catalytic systems where metal nanoparticles are confined in different materials. As an example, gold nanoparticles were encapsulated inside silicates.

The aim with encapsulation of metal nanoparticles in a porous matrix is to prevent the metal nanoparticle from sintering during a high temperature catalytic reaction. Furthermore, the porous matrix can also contribute actively to the catalytic reaction.

“We have already produced the first exciting results in this project, and I’m proud to say the resulting paper have been accepted for publishing by ChemCatChem”, Søren Kegnæs explains.

“It’s a very good start, and now we are looking forward to the day where our catalysts can be tested and ultimately put to good use by our international academic and industrial partners”.

Topimage: Gold nanoparticles encapsulated in a porous matrix of silicalite-1.
Associate Professor Søren Kegnæs.



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