Supervisor(s): Laura Zoutendijk
Title: Developing Analytical Methods to Detect Micro- and Nanoplastics in Human Blood and Tissue
Description: Plastic pieces that end up in the environment can break down into microplastics or nanoplastics (MNPs). Little is known about their chemistry and possible health effects for mankind. The aim of the project is to develop reliable analysis techniques to detect micro- and nanoplastics within the human body, especially within the placenta. The placenta is an important organ for regulating the growth and development of the fetus. Previous studies have shown that environmental pollutants may have an adverse health effect on the developing fetus, which makes the human placenta an important matrix in researching MNPs’ health effects.1 In this project, we will adapt existing protocols for the analysis of polystyrene MNPs in placental tissue, towards protocols for different kinds of plastics, different kinds of samples (blood, for example), and different kinds of analysis techniques (AFM, SEM, IR and Raman microspectroscopy). This will help us gain insight into how to best analyze micro- and nanoplastics, which is a crucial step in creating a risk assessment to the unborn child.
1. Dusza, H. M. et al. Environ. Health Perspect. 130, 97006 (2022).
Supervisor(s): Thomas Roekmann (Marine and Atmospheric Research), Luper Technologies
Title: several open positions
Description: Luper Technologies is an early stage startup working to free the world of (organic) industrial air pollution by unburdening industrial companies from their air pollution through our patented air cleaning systems. Our systems remove pollutants from industrial offgasses through the natural self-cleaning mechanisms of Earth’s atmosphere. Unlike other technologies, our systems operate fully in the gas phase. Attached a one-pager and slide deck with additional information: Luper Technologies One-Pager, Luper Technologies Introduction Slidedeck
We are currently looking for (atmospheric) chemists to help us in our journey. We’ve got several open positions for team members and interns. We’re working together with Thomas Roeckmann and the University of Utrecht, so that allows you to do your graduation project at Luper.
Feel free to reach out with any questions and we are looking forward to see how we can help each other.
Supervisor(s): Sebastian Rejman, Ina Vollmer
Title: Trash to feedstock – Understanding catalysts for chemical conversion of plastic waste
Description: Imagine you would dump the entire annual output of the chemical industry on one huge pile. How much of that pile would be plastic? The answer is about 40%. Ideally we would like to recycle all of it – but with current methods that challenge proofs difficult, as traditional, mechanical recycling only gives polymers of inferior quality. One way to tackle this problem is chemical recycling: Instead of simply melting the plastic down and giving it a new shape, we want to deconstruct it into smaller molecules that can serve as feedstock for the chemical industry. One way to achieve this is pyrolysis: That is, heating the plastic under exclusion of oxygen and turning it into something resembling crude oil. This approach has two problems: The required temperature is very high, and the products are of rather low value. Both problems can be overcome with the help of catalysts. In prior work we have shown that a cheap, waste refinery catalyst can be used to turn polypropylene into an aromatic rich product. The goal of my research is to understand how these catalyst work and identify key properties that determine their performance. In this project, you will be working on understanding how the pore structure influences the activity of the catalyst.
What you will learn:
-) Basics of polymer chemistry and chemical recycling
-) Advanced activity testing and characterization of plastic cracking catalysts
-) Analyzing and plotting your data with Python
-) How to present your results in the most convincing way
What we expect:
-) Strong motivation and ability to work independently
-) Initial experience with python or strong motivation to learn