Available Projects for Master Students

The labs of the ICC group will be closed February and March 2020. Please consider this in your planning of a MSc project with us.

as of 14.10.2019 we can unfortunately not host any more MSc students. We can again host MSc students in period 4. The calls below are open but EXCEPT FOR THE FIRST TWO (see there) projects can not start before period 4.

Currently the following calls for MSc projects are open. If you are interested please contact Florian Meirer. First please consult our page information for students.


Supervisor: Savannah Turner
Please note that during the DDW lab closure, it may be possible to carry out some of the synthesis in BASF’s labs so this project could be started in period 3.
Short project description:
Studying the morphology and properties of metal silicates.
Metal silicates are often formed during the synthesis of catalysts during deposition precipitation, coprecipitation and incipient wetness impregnation. In some cases they are formed intentionally and act as the catalyst precursor where they are decomposed under hydrogen to give metallic nanoparticles separated by the remaining silica (eg. nickel and copper silicates are common starting materials for catalysts). In other cases they are an undesired side reaction because they are too stable to be decomposed to the metallic particles at industrially practical temperatures (eg. cobalt silicates). All metal silicates have different morphologies depending on which metal is used, but also depending on the type of silica precursor and the conditions of their synthesis. Their morphology dramatically changes the porosity of the catalyst compared to that of the starting silica material.
In this project we aim to study the morphologies of metal silicates by either varying synthesis conditions or metals (to be discussed). The properties of the materials will be studied using powder X-ray diffraction, temperature programmed reduction, thermogravimetric analysis, nitrogen physisorption and transmission electron microscopy. We will perform electron tomography on the most interesting materials with the aim of reconstructing this data to fully understand the 3D structure of the pores.


A project available in the OCC group (Prof. Pieter Bruijnincx):
Supervisor: Arjan Smit (PhD candidate OCC)
This project is carried out in the OCC group and can start before period 4.
Short project description:
Process development for Fabiola lignin modification.
ECN.TNO has developed a mild fractionation process, FabiolaTM , which has a large potential for improving the cost-effective pretreatment of biomass. Fractionation of herbaceous biomass and hardwood resulted in high sugar yields from the (hemi)cellulose. The sugars can be converted to fuels and building blocks for amongst others plastics. The isolated lignin showed remarkable characteristics as compared to lignin obtained by other pretreatment processes. Lignin characterisation and its application as feedstock for aromatic polymers and monomers are currently being worked on. In addition to improved product yields and quality, the combination of solvent and process conditions holds potential for a significant reduction of operating cost and energy demand which further improves the economic viability of the process.
Crucial for the economic viability and market implementation of this process is the valorization of lignin to high value applications. The goal of this project is to develop a mild process for Fabiola lignin modification to produce tailored building blocks for high performance materials. The project involves the synthesis and use of heterogeneous catalysts for selective lignin conversion.
[1] Smit, Arjan, and Wouter Huijgen. “Effective fractionation of lignocellulose in herbaceous biomass and hardwood using a mild acetone organosolv process.” Green Chemistry 19.22 (2017): 5505-5514.
[2] de Haro, Juan Carlos, et al. “Bio-based polyurethane coatings with high biomass content: tailored properties by lignin selection.” ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (2019).


Supervisor: Peter Ngene and Laura de Kort
Short project description:

Novel solid-state electrolytes for next generation rechargeable batteries.
Lithium-ion battery is the dominant energy storage technology for portable electronic devices. However, due to the limited energy density, safety issues and high cost, there is a profound interest to develop a next-generation batteries such as all-solid-state batteries in which liquid electrolytes are replaced with solid-state electrolytes, and thereby overcoming the limitations of the current Li-ion batteries. Sodium based batteries are also attractive due to the low cost of sodium. These next generation batteries hold much promise for large scale storage of intermittent energy from renewable sources, and for electric vehicles.  A crucial step towards the realization of these next generation batteries is the development solid-state electrolytes with the desired properties.[1,2]
In this project, we will develop novel class of solid-state Li or Na ion conductors based on low melting point compounds that are known to have good interfacial contact with high energy density electrode materials. Unfortunately, the low melting temperature compounds of interest exhibit low ionic conductivity at room temperature. Therefore, the focus of this project is to achieve high ionic conductivity in these compounds using interface engineering. Here, the interfacial effects arising from nanoconfinement of sodium or lithium-based ionic compounds in nanoporous scaffolds (metal oxides or zeolites) will be exploited/controlled to achieve high Na or Li-ion conductivities in the compounds. This approach has been successfully utilized in our laboratory to  improve the ionic conductivity of Li-based and Na-based complex hydrides(LiBH4 and NaBH4) [3] but the impact on other classes of sodium/lithium compounds have not been investigated. The synthesized nanocomposites (samples) and batteries will be studied using several characterization techniques, such as XRD, nitrogen physisorption, IR, Raman, TGA, Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) DSC, NMR, XPS XRS (x-ray Raman Scattering) and neutron depth profiling.
[1] Bachman, J. C.;  et al., Inorganic solid-state electrolytes for lithium batteries: mechanisms and properties governing ion conduction. Chemical reviews 2015, 116 (1), 140-162.
[2] Zhang, Z.;  et al.,  New horizons for inorganic solid state ion conductors. Energy & Environmental Science 2018, 11 (8), 1945-1976.
[3] Blanchard, D.;  et al. Nanoconfined LiBH4 as a fast lithium ion conductor. Advanced Functional Materials 2015, 25 (2), 184-192.


Supervisor: Koen Bossers and Maarten Jongkind
Short project description:
Imaging the Exchange of Internal and External Donors on Fluorescently Labelled Ziegler-Natta Catalysts
Ziegler-Natta catalysts are considered to be the grand old workhorses of the poly-olefin industry, where polyethylene and polypropylene are produced on the 180 million tonnes scale annually. Nowadays a typical Ziegler-Natta catalyst is based on a MgCl2 framework to which the pro-active site TiCl4 chemisorbs on specific unsaturated lattices such as the (110) and (104). These lattices can be stabilized by the presence of so-called internal (added during synthesis) and external (added during the polymerization reaction) donors, which additionally also change the stereochemistry and activity of the Ti active sites. These donors are typically Lewis base organic molecules such as di-ethers and di-esters for internal donors and alkoxysilanes for external donors. The external donor is typically added due to the trialkylaluminium co-catalyst removing the internal donors from the surface during the polymerization reaction.
In this work we propose to directly image the removal of internal donor as well as coordination of the external donor on the MgCl2 surface by using perylene-labelled di-ether, di-ester and alkoxysilane donor molecules as fluorescent tags. These donors will be either grafted onto a MgCl2 framework (internal donors) or added during the polymerization reaction and the exchange will be imaged ex-situ and in-situ by the master student with confocal fluorescence microscopy (CFM). Additional information will be obtained by ex-situ Raman microscopy, IR microscopy, SEM-EDX and polymer analysis (GPC, 13C-NMR) to analyse the polymer properties obtained (isotacticity, molecular weight distribution). If time allows it, the student will also work closely with the supervising PhD on developing a MgCl2 single crystal model system for the same research that has  spatially resolved (110) and (104) lattices. [1,2]
[1] J.R. Severn and J.C. Chadwick (Eds.), Tailor-Made Polymers; Wiley-VCH: Weinheim, Germany, 2008
[2] Guzeev, B.A., Mladentsev, D.Y., Sharikov, M.I., Goryunov, G.P., Uborsky, D.V., Voskoboynikov, A.Z., Synthesis, 2019, 51, 1399-1407