Available Projects for Master Students

Due to the current situation (COVID-19) access to the laboratories, and in fact the entire David de Wied & Vening Meinesz buildings, is strictly limited until further notice. 

We can therefore only accept a limited number of new MSc or BSc projects; applications are handled on a first-come-first-serve basis. Please make sure to fill in and submit your request via the online form linked to here

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.

Title: Detecting Nanoplastics in Aerosols
Description: Micrometer-sized plastic particles, which are formed upon degradation of plastic waste, are widely documented in the environment and well-studied. However, little is known about the nanosized plastic particles that also form upon degradation of plastic. Researchers have reported these so-called ‘nanoplastics’ at remote locations, such as mountains or lakes, using mass spectrometry (MS)-based techniques. These bulk analytical methods can provide mass fractions of the polymers in a sample, but cannot provide information at the single nanoparticle level, such as size distributions or properties of individual nanoplastic particles. In this master thesis research project we will therefore use multiple nanoscale imaging techniques, such as atomic force microscopy (AFM) and photo-induced force microscopy (PiFM), to complement the MS-based bulk analyses. We will study nanoplastics in aerosol on a fundamental level by analyzing emissions from 3D printers, as well as other environmental samples.

Supervisor(s): Erik Maris
Title: Machine Learning for Single-Molecule Microscopy
Diffusion of molecules through nanoporous materials is often the limiting factor in their application in catalysis and separation. The molecular motion is usually heterogeneous and complex, due to strong interactions between the diffusing molecules and nanoporous material [1]. Single-molecule localization microscopy allows us to study these interactions via the trajectories of individual molecules [2]. Due to diffraction of light, the individual molecules appear as bright spots on the camera, which are much larger than the actual size of the molecules. To find their location with nanometer precision, we fit the center of the spot in an analysis step called “localization”. This is easy when the molecules have a fixed position; however, when the molecules move, the spot on the camera is blurred and the fit is poor. Machine learning, and particularly neural networks, have proven to be a great tool to localize molecules efficiently [3]. In this project, you will train neural networks to localize molecules with motion blur and benchmark its performance against established techniques.
[1] Hendriks, F.C., et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 139, 13632–13635 (2017)
[2] Manzo, C., et al. Rep. Prog. Phys. 78, 124601 (2015)
[3] Möckl, L., et al. Biomed. Opt. Express 11, 1633–1661 (2020)

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.

Supervisor(s): Bram Kappé
Title: Size-tunable synthesis of colloidal Ni nanoparticles for structure sensitivity studies in (de)hydrogenation catalysis
Description: Most catalytic reactions are structure sensitive, which means that the surface atoms of a supported metal catalyst differ in activity. The specific activity of surface atoms depends on their atomic arrangement which depends on nanoparticle shape and size. To study these effects very monodisperse nanoparticles of several sizes are required, which are currently not available for nickel. Therefore the main goal of this project is to develop a size-tunable synthesis procedure for small, monodisperse colloidal Ni nanoparticles. In this synthesis-oriented project, the student will to synthesize and characterize small, monodisperse colloidal nickel particles. To stabilize the particles various phenyl-based ligands will be tested, which will allow tuning particle size and shape. These efforts will be on the border between inorganic and organometallic/coordination chemistry. The synthesized particles will then be deposited on a support, and will be tested as catalysts for various reactions, for example CO2 hydrogenation, making use of operando spectroscopy such as FT-IR. The student will also have the creative freedom to extend this project, for example to bimetallic nanoparticles. The student will learn how to do inert synthesis using a Schlenk line and glovebox, and become proficient in TEM, XRD and operando spectroscopy such as FT-IR.

Supervisor(s): Caroline Versluis, Eelco T.C. Vogt
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.