Available projects for Master Students

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.


Supervisors: Luke Parker and Nikolaos Nikolopoulos
Short project description:
Effect of Mg Distribution in Zeolite-based Extrudates on Methanol-To-Olefins (MTO) Process
The MTO process is an important industrial reaction as it is a way to produce light olefins that are subsequently used worldwide for the synthesis of commodity chemicals such as plastics. Recent studies have shown that Mg-modified zeolites exhibit higher selectivity towards light olefins as well as enhanced stability compared to unmodified zeolites. Numerous investigations have proved the beneficial effect of an egg-shell rather than a uniform distribution of metal for reactions such as fluid-catalytic-cracking, Fischer-Tropsch, steam-methane reforming and partial oxidation of methane (POM).
The goal of this project is to synthesize, characterize (fresh and spent samples) and evaluate zeolite-based extrudates with different Mg distribution profiles (uniform, egg-shell, egg-yolk etc.) for the MTO reaction.


Supervisor: Joris Koek
Short project description:
Self-assembly of gold nanoparticles with controlled interparticle spacing
Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) utilizes metal nanostructures to greatly enhance the Raman signal[1]. In 2010 Shell Isolated Nanoparticle Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SHINERS) was introduced in which a thin metal oxide layer is utilized to isolate the plasmonic active metal nanostructure from the measured substance[2].
In this research gold or silver nanoparticles (with and without silica shell) will be self-assembled to produce highly SERS-active, homogeneous substrates for application in catalysis. Furthermore, a spacer can be added (for example a polymer layer) to tune the gaps between the particles [3]. TEM and UV-Vis spectroscopy will be used for particle characterization. AFM and SEM will be used for characterization of the morphology of the substrates. Finally Raman spectroscopy will be used to test the SERS enhancement. In addition, effects of laser wavelength, number of particle layers, particle size and shell thickness can be studied. If enough time is left catalysts can be deposited on the substrates and catalytic reactions can be performed, giving insights into the reaction mechanism.
This project will be a nice combination between nanoparticle synthesis, characterization and a touch of catalysis!
[1] S. Schlücker, “Surface-enhanced raman spectroscopy: Concepts and chemical applications,” Angew. Chemie – Int. Ed., vol. 53, no. 19, pp. 4756–4795, 2014.
[2] J. F. Li and Z. Q. Tian, “Shell-Isolated Nanoparticle-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy,” Nature, vol. 464, pp. 392–395, 2010.
[3] S. Ullrich, S. P. Scheeler, C. Pacholski, and J. P. Spatz, “Formation of Large 2D Arrays of Shape-Controlled Colloidal Nanoparticles at Variable Interparticle Distances,” pp. 102–108, 2013.


Supervisor: Michael Jenks
Short project description:
Chemical recycling of plastic: Catalyst synthesis and characterisation
As of 2013, only 14 % of global plastic waste is collected for recycling[1], because of a lack of recycling techniques that are able to fully restore plastic properties. Chemical recycling has the ability to boost the recycling rate, because of its versatility, specifically when done catalytically. In this project certain catalysts will be investigated as promising candidates for increasing the quality of pyrolytic oil from a plastic source. Thermal recycling routes for PET are interesting to investigate in this respect, because of its tendency to produce lower quality pyrolytic oil[2] and its C-O-C bond, which could be susceptible to catalysts, especially in combination with solid acids. Acid sites are known to promote the cracking of plastics[3]. This project will include the synthesis, catalytic testing and characterisation of various catalysts for the catalytic depolymerisation of PET (and potentially further plastic types).
[1] E. MacArthur, Rethinking the Future of Plastics, 2014.
[2] B. Kunwar, H. N. Cheng, S. R. Chandrashekaran, B. K. Sharma, Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 2016, 54, 421–428.
[3] G. Lopez, M. Artetxe, M. Amutio, J. Bilbao, M. Olazar, Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 2017, 73, 346–368.


Supervisor: Maximilian Werny
Short project description:
Studies on the Fragmentation of Stained Olefin Polymerization Catalyst Particles
The goal of the research project is to characterize the fragmentation of industrial-grade olefin polymerization catalyst particles at various reaction stages. For this purpose, stained metallocene and Ziegler-Natta catalysts will be synthesized and pre-polymerized under different reaction conditions. Confocal fluorescence microscopy (CFM) can then be applied to visualize the pre-polymerized catalyst particles in 3D, thus delivering insights into the fragmentation of the support and polymer formation. All in all, the project will feature a combination of synthetic work (catalyst preparation), micro-spectroscopy (CFM) and data/image processing (particle reconstruction and analysis).


Supervisor: Nienke Visser
Short project description:
Influence of support modifications in nickel on carbon catalysts for COhydrogenation
Converting COinto valuable chemicals and fuels is an important process to reduce our carbon footprint. Nickel-based catalysts are extensively studied for COhydrogenation. This is mainly because the reaction mechanism is not yet fully understood and depends on various parameters, such as the type of support used and the nickel particle size. In this study we use graphitic carbon as support. With this relatively inert support, we try to distinguish between different type effects (particle size, support and eventually the addition of promoters). Another advantage of carbon as support is the possibility to functionalize it by the addition of acidic and/or basic sites. It is know that this functionalization can be useful to tune the size of the metal particles on the support, which is typically done by the incorporation of acidic groups.[1] However, it is known that the presence of basic groups can improve the catalyst activity in COhydrogenation.[2,3] The aim of this master project is to investigate the influence of carbon support modifications on both the synthesis and catalytic performance of Ni/C catalysts. The project is a combination of synthesis, characterization and catalytic testing under realistic reaction conditions.
[1] Donoeva et al., ACS Catalysis, 7 (2017), 4581
[2] A.U. Aldana et al., Catalysis Today, 215 (2013), 201
[3] Pan et al., Catalysis Communications, 5 (2014), 74