Available Projects for Master Students

Currently the following calls for MSc projects are open. If you are interested submit your request via the online form linked to here First please consult our page information for students.

Supervisor(s): Rafael Mayorga GonzálezYadolah Ganjkhanlou
Title: Mapping heterogeneity within catalyst particles using carbon quantum dots
Carbon dots (CQDs) are new organic luminescent compounds that were accidentally discovered by Xu et al. in 2004 [1]. CQDs have been vastly investigated as a local sensor for different applications due to the sensitivity of their luminescence to different parameters (e.g., thier solvent, temperature, the presence of specific metals, and/or the pH of their environment). For instance, they have been applied as chemosensors of different metal ions in solvents [1] and as intracellular pH detectors in biological systems [2]. The goal of the proposed project is to develop a simple method based on CQDs in order to get a submicron 3D map of specific properties within catalyst particles. To perform this project, the student will synthesize CQDs, stain different solid materials with varying properties (e.g., zeolites with different Si/Al ratios and porosities) with the prepared CQDs, and image the stained solid samples with a confocal fluorescence microscope. The obtained images will be used to correlates acidity (or other properties) with emission spectra of CQDs. The student will have opportunities to learn about the synthesis of CQDs, using the confocal microscope, and processing the obtained images. He or she will also become familiar with a few other advanced characterization techniques of catalyst materials.
[1] Liu, Y., Duan, W., Song, W., Liu, J., Ren, C., Wu, J., … & Chen, H. Red emission B, N, S-co-doped carbon dots for colorimetric and fluorescent dual mode detection of Fe3+ ions in complex biological fluids and living cells. ACS applied materials & interfaces 2017 9(14), 12663-12672.
[2] Ye, X., Xiang, Y., Wang, Q., Li, Z., & Liu, Z. A Red Emissive Two‐Photon Fluorescence Probe Based on Carbon Dots for Intracellular pH Detection. Small 2019 15(48), 1901673.

Supervisor(s): Romy Riemersma
Title: Unveiling the growth mechanism of b-oriented ZSM-5 membranes in neutral fluoride containing growth media
Description: The synthesis of b-oriented ZSM-5 zeolite membranes has garnered considerable attention from research in recent years. The combination of catalytically active ZSM-5 zeolites with the separation functionality of membranes opens up a path to promising applications in catalytic membrane reactors. Furthermore, the specifically controlled orientation means that only the straight channels of the ZSM-5 structure are accessible, enhancing diffusion properties.
Previous work in our group demonstrated the development of such membranes consisting of a ZSM-5 film grown from silicalite-1 seeded porous ceramic supports through the secondary growth method. [1] However, these membranes suffer from delamination during the secondary growth step. Recent work has shown delamination can be largely avoided when synthesis is carried out in neutral fluoride containing growth media. Unfortunately, the b-orientation of the ZSM-5 layer is not retained. In this project the student’s objectives are twofold: to design a synthesis protocol that will retain the orientation of the ZSM-5 layer as well as to research the influence of several additives to the growth medium on the growth of the ZSM-5 film. In this ambitious synthesis project, the student will have to opportunity to learn about zeolite synthesis and zeolite membrane fabrication as well as work with analysis techniques such as SEM, XRD, AFM and XPS. If time allows, the obtained membranes can be tested for separation and permeation ability.
[1] D. Fu et al., “Uniformly Oriented Zeolite ZSM-5 Membranes with Tunable Wettability on a Porous Ceramic,” Angew. Chemie – Int. Ed., 2018, doi: 10.1002/anie.201806361.

Title: Spin-coat Fluid Catalytic Cracking Catalyst slurry for extended analysis
Description: Although the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) process is being practiced for over 80 years to convert crude oil into usable products, there is still a lot to learn about the mechanism behind the catalytic cracking to tune the selectivity.[1] Imagine you are a crude oil molecule: which way will you follow through the particle and which interactions and reactions will you encounter and where?
To gain more insight in this, different fluorescent probes can be used to study the pore network, location of the acid sides and the local environment near these acid sites inside the particle with Confocal Fluorescent Microscopy.[2,3,4] However, due to the dense structure of these FCC particles, the resolution with CFM is limited. To overcome this limitation we want to make thin FCC films via spincoating.[5] In this way we have all the components of a FCC particle and hopefully we can more easily study the acid sites in a FCC film.
In this research project, the student will first try to make different FCC films with different compositions on a suitable substrate and secondly analyze these FCC films with different fluorescent probes using Confocal Fluorescence Microscopy to probe the acid sites, accessibility and local environment. Additional diffusion experiments can be done as well.
[1] E.T.C Vogt & B.M. Weckhuysen, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2015, 44, 7342.
[2] M.M. Kerssens et al., Microporous and Mesoporous Materials, 2014, 189, 136–143.
[3] F.C. Hendriks et al., Chem. Eur. J., 2017, 23, 6305-6314.
[4] I.L.C. Buurmans etal., Chem. Eur. J., 2012, 18, 1094-1101.
[5] Lam et al., Cracking Catalyst Composition, United States Patent US 2002/0165083A1, United States Patent Application Publication, Nov. 7, 2002.


Supervisor(s): Matteo Monai, Helen King (Geosciences)
Title: Can magnetic manipulation of FeS growth change its catalytic properties?
Description: The need for alternative feedstocks to conventional fossil fuels have put the development of carbon capture, storage and, in particular, utilisation technologies firmly on the scientific and political agenda. Although the catalytic potential of Fe-S nanoparticles is clear from their electronic make-up, production of iron sulphides is complicated and time consuming. However, iron sulphides have surface specific magnetic properties that may influence their behaviour. As surface reactivity is a key parameter for the nucleation and growth of minerals, this means that we may be able to manipulate these phenomena using magnetic fields to optimise iron sulphide growth for catalysis. In this multi-disciplinary project, the group of Helen King from the Department of Geosciences is starting to grow Fe-sulphides in the presence of different magnetic field strengths, while the MSc student in the ICC group will then examine whether this treatment can change the catalytic projects of the FeS particles.


Supervisor(s): Kordula Schnabl, Florian Zand
Title: Chitosan Depolymerization – Synthesis of Sustainable Coating Precursors
Description: Nowadays coating materials are still largely based on fossil-based feedstocks and their application often goes along with the use of organic solvents. [1,2] Chitosan-based coatings are a viable option to produce sustainable coating materials, however their weak solubility in water is limiting their industrial application. [3] In this project, we aim to increase the water solubility by depolymerizing the polymer into oligomers with the help of supported bimetallic catalysts which already was successfully shown for lignin. [4] For this, a set of catalysts will be synthesized and characterized with techniques such as electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction. Furthermore, the chitosan polymer and the obtained product solution will be analyzed on its degree of depolymerization with e.g. infrared spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis, and asymmetric-flow field flow fractioning. With this the student will get a valuable insight into the fields of synthesis, characterization and catalysis. Via the following approach we aim to optimize both the catalyst material as well as the conditions for the depolymerization of chitosan polymer. By this we offer a pathway for renewable alternatives in order to replace current fossil-derived materials.
[1] Inamuddin I., Thomas S., Kumar Mishra R., Sustainable Polymer Composites and Nanocomposites, Springer, 2019.
[2] Helanto K., Maitikainen L., Talja R., Bio-based polymers for sustainable packaging and biobarriers: A critical review, BioRes. 14(2), 4902-4951, 2019.
[3] Rinaudo M., Chitin and chitosan: Properties and applications, Prog. Polym. Sci. 31 603-632, 2006.
[4] Zhang J., Cai, Y., Lu, G., Cai, C., Facile and selective hydrogenolysis of β-O-4 linkages in lignin catalyzed by Pd–Ni bimetallic nanoparticles supported on ZrO, Green Chemistry, 18, 6229-6235, 2016.


Supervisor(s): Loreta Muscarella (AMOLF), Eline Hutter
Title: Dion-Jacobson 2D perovskites as platform for photochemical reactions
Description: In recent years, halide perovskites have emerged as intriguing materials for water splitting, CO2 reduction, and N2 fixation. Within this class of materials, layered 2D perovskites exhibit higher stability compared to the 3D counterpart. In layered 2D perovskites, infinite slabs of inorganic perovskites are separated by bifunctional organic spacers (Dion-Jacobson, DJ phase) or monofunctional organic spacers (Ruddlesden-Popper, RP phase). In RP perovskites, smaller distances between the inorganic perovskite slabs lead to higher efficiencies in performing photochemical reactions [1]. Although the DJ perovskite phase has demonstrated higher carriers’ mobility and higher stability compared to the RP phase, little is known about their behavior as platform for photochemical reactions.
The goal of the proposed project is to investigate DJ perovskites as platform for photochemical reactions (e.g. proton reduction and iodide oxidation) and compare the performance with the RP phase. As next step, the performances of the two phases will be correlated with their fundamental properties. To perform this project, you will synthesize the two types of perovskite phases using comparable organic spacers, evaluate their efficiency to perform photochemical reactions in liquid phase under different conditions (e.g. concentration and light intensity). The results of these experiments will be related to the chemical properties of the two perovskite phases such as the type of organic spacer and the arrangement of the spacer in the perovskite structure.
[1] Hong Wang, Hefeng Zhang, Junhui Wang, Yuying Gao, Fengtao Fan, Kaifeng Wu, XuZong and Can Li, Mechanistic Understanding of Efficient Photocatalytic H2 Evolution on Two-Dimensional Layered Lead Iodide Hybrid Perovskites, Angew.Chem., 2021, 133, 7452 –7457

Supervisor(s): Jelle Bos
Title: Bifunctional catalysis and coupled in-situ spectroscopies in iso-oleic acid hydrogenation
Description: Isostearic acid (ISAC) is a naturally-derived fatty acid with unique properties within the group of vegetable-derived fatty acids. Possessing low-temperature liquidity and excellent oxidative stability, it is used in demanding applications such as personal care products and lubricants, amongst others. [1] The feedstock for ISAC production is iso-oleic acid (IOAC), a branched fatty acid produced via the isomerization of unsaturated vegetable fatty acids. Alongside IOAC however, the isomerization reaction leads to the formation of a smelly and unstable by-product, which must be removed from the reaction mixture. Currently the production of ISAC from IOAC involves two separate catalyst powders: an acidic catalyst responsible for removal of this by-product, and a metallic catalyst responsible for hydrogenating the IOAC. In this project the student will develop a catalyst that integrates the acid and metal functionalities into one bifunctional system for the production of ISAC. Firstly, various acidic catalysts will be modified and screened for their ability to remove the by-product from the mixture. Once a suitable candidate has been found, the student will introduce metal nanoparticles to the catalyst, and test and compare the performance of the bifunctional catalyst to the original system. The synthesized catalysts will be characterized by a variety of analytical techniques, such as TEM, NH3-TPD, CO-IR and Py-IR. Additionally, a custom hydrogenation reactor has been designed for this project that contains ATR-IR, Raman and fluorescence probes. In a later part of the project, together we will use these spectroscopic tools to follow the hydrogenation reaction and any side-reactions over time.
[1] B.M. Weckhuysen, S.C.C. Wiedemann, P.C.A. Bruijnincx, “Isostearic Acid: A Unique Fatty Acid with Great Potential,” in Chemicals and Fuels from Bio-Based Building Blocks, 1st ed., Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH, 2016, pp. 51–74.