MCEC researchers involved in NWO ENW Groot projects

MCEC Researchers from Utrecht University Bert Weckhuysen (co-applicant a.o. Florian Meirer) and Alfons van Blaaderen (co-applicant a.o. Laura Filion) have received an ‘NWO ENW Groot’ grant.

With these grants, the NWO domain Science stimulates curiosity-driven, non-programmed fundamental research. Grants within the NWO Open Competition ENW Groot program are intended for consortia in which research groups create added value through collaboration.

More details about the two projects:

Nanoplastics: Origin, Structure and Fate
Prof B.M. Weckhuysen, Utrecht University
Troubling images, showcasing the large amount of plastic litter that contaminates our waters and threatens wildlife, have become a regular focus of the popular media. Not everyone realizes that we cannot account for a very large fraction of the plastic that escapes into the ocean. A significant portion of this “missing plastic” is hypothesized to result from the degradation of plastics and are named nanoplastics. A multidisciplinary team will now use a breakthrough approach to investigate the formation, presence, and distribution of nanoplastics in aquatic environments. They will study size, structure, and composition of nanoplastics, their transport across the ocean, as well as their interplay with and impact on the Earth’s aquatic microbiome. The reactivity of nanoplastics will also be assessed, allowing to investigate potential degradation pathways, including those involving microbial interactions.

Self-Assembled Icosahedral Photonic Quasicrystals with a Band Gap for Visible Light
Prof A. van Blaaderen, Utrecht University
Photonic crystals are important for many research areas and applications because they enhance the interaction of light with matter in an unprecedented way. Here we plan to make both periodic and quasi-periodic photonic crystals by using colloidal self-assembly, an inherently scalable and inexpensive approach. These crystals will have a so-called photonic bandgap for visible light, the equivalent of an electronic bandgap for electrons. The study of such structures, and how they can influence light, will not only provide new fundamental knowledge about quasicrystals but will also have applications in e.g. data manipulation, lighting, sensing and photocatalysis.

More information about the NWO ENW Groot Grant can be found in the pressrelease.

Extensive collaboration between Jeroen Vollenbroek (UT) and Anne-Eva Nieuwelink (UU) leads to first MCEC Joint Doctorate degree

Photo: Anne-Eva Nieuwelink and Jeroen Vollenbroek

On Friday January 24, the first ever joint doctorate degree of the MCEC Research Center was granted to Jeroen Vollenbroek. Jeroen Vollenbroek received his PhD degree from both University of Twente and Utrecht University.

The PhD thesis of Jeroen Vollenbroek proofed a fine marriage between microreactor technology and catalysis. Each chapter is based on the collaboration between Prof. Albert van den Berg from the BIOS Lab-on-a-Chip group of the University of Twente and Prof. Bert Weckhuysen from the Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis group of Utrecht University.

The thesis was realized in collaboration with Anne-Eva Nieuwelink (UU) who, like Jeroen Vollenbroek, conducts research at the Netherlands Center for Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion (MCEC).

Microreactor Technology and Catalysis
Jeroen Vollenbroek: ‘The aim of the thesis was to develop microreactors using droplet microfluidics for the high-throughput screening of single catalyst microparticles. Together with Anne-Eva (Nieuwelink) we developed microreactors in which catalyst particles can be screened for their catalytic activity and the most active particles can be sorted out.’

Please find more information about the thesis of Jeroen Vollenbroek, entitled ‘Microreactors for single catalyst particle diagnostics – Measuring catalytic activity at high-throughput in multi-phase flows‘, on the website of University of Twente.




30 Jan. 2020

MCEC Consortium Celebrates Five-year Anniversary

The Center for Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion (MCEC) celebrated its fifth anniversary with a scientific symposium on catalysis at De Fabrique in Utrecht.

Collaborations and Impact

Because catalysis can be studied at different length scales, different scientific disciplines are involved in catalysis research. The main objective of MCEC is that chemists, physicists materials scientists and chemical engineers  work together, both within and outside their own discipline, to find answers to important questions in the field of energy transition. Therefore, on 29 November this year, MCEC organized a scientific symposium where the MCEC community presented the latest state of their research to each other.


Dr. Mathieu Odijk (University of Twente) kicked off the symposium with his research into micro-level catalysis by means of microreactors. Next, a new member of the MCEC scientific advisory board, Prof. Raffaella Ocone (Heriot-Watt University), spoke about improvements in chemical processes on an industrial scale. The following presentation by Prof. Jens Nørskov (Technical University of Denmark) gave inspiring insights to answer an important question in catalysis research: ‘How do we make new catalysts for N2 activation?

Dr. Robin Geitenbeek (Utrecht University), Dr. Hai Le The (Twente University) and Katarina Stanciakova (Utrecht University) then presented their PhD projects from the first phase of MCEC. Scientific director Prof. Bert Weckhuysen (Utrecht University) concluded the day with a lecture on how spectroscopy and microscopy can be used to reveal chemical processes in catalysts.

MECC Symposium
Lecture Bert Weckhuysen at symposium (photo: D. Boetekees)

Second phase of MCEC

With this symposium the first phase of MCEC came to an end. MCEC provides 40 positions for PhD students and postdocs in two phases of five years, whereby it can leave its ma

The MCEC consortium is a gravity programme that was granted funding of ~ 32 million euro for personnel and facilities by NWO in 2014 for a maximum of ten years. This means that over the next five years, MCEC will be able to continue working on groundbreaking research in the field of catalysis.rk on Dutch catalysis research and thereby contribute to the further international profiling of this important area of research. Furthermore, the community currently consists of 54 staff members, a management team of 7 professors and a scientific advisory committee of 8 leading international scientists.


17 December 2019

Prof. Niels Deen (TU/e) lecture ‘Universiteit van Nederland’

Not electric, not hydrogen, but iron! According to Prof. Niels Deen (TU/e) this is the alternative to sustainable driving. In his lecture on ‘Universiteit van Nederland‘ he explains how rusty iron can help us to obtain a constant supply of energy:





20 November 2019

Prof. Bert Weckhuysen named Karl Ziegler Guest Professor 2019

Prof. Bert Weckhuysen (UU) received this year’s highest award from the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. He visited the Mülheim Institute from 28 to 30 October to give three lectures, receive his award and be available to the scientists for exchange. Bert Weckhuysen has been honored for his outstanding achievements in the field of operando characterization of catalysts.

Read more about the Karl-Ziegler Guest Professorship.



29 October 2019

Andries Meijerink (UU) wins KNAW Gilles Holst Medaille

Chemist Andries Meijerink will receive the KNAW Gilles Holst Medal this year. Meijerink has been awarded the medal for modelling, making and characterising new luminous materials that improve the efficiency of lighting and solar cells.

Andries Meijerink, Professor of Solid State Chemistry at the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science and MCEC member at Utrecht University, is an internationally renowned expert in the design, composition and understanding of materials that emit light. His research is crucial for the transition to a sustainable society in which efficient lighting and the conversion of sunlight into electricity will play a pivotal role.


11 October 2019

ERC Starting grant for David Fernández Rivas (UT)

David Fernández Rivas has been awarded the ERC Starting Grant. The MCEC member from University of Twente received the maximum amount of € 1.5 million for his project focused on the development of needle-free injections, or: ‘bubble gun’, as the technology is based on ‘pushing’ liquid into the skin using laser-made bubbles.

David Fernández is a great advocate of societal benefit of scientific research. He’s ensuring its deployment into society on three topics: cavitation, renewable energy, and process intensification through microfluidics. Since 2014 he has focused on biomedical projects.

What is it exactly that fascinates you about the biomedical implementation?
It’s all about the challenge. First you have the technical factor: A lot of researchers before me have tried to study this difficult topic. The big question is, can I make it work? Then there’s the human factor. Successful implementation will only be possible if we can deal with all the variables of the human body. In contradiction to the work we do in a lab, the circumstances can change instantly and unpredictably.

A €1.5 million ERC Starting grant, what will you do with it?
Such a grant can be spend in many ways. Depending on the type of research you do, your location, whether or not you do a lot of experimental work. You have to factor in the salary of people who are working on the project, the equipment and the experiments.
For this specific project we will be looking to work with three PhD students and one PD. The aim is to assemble a multi-disciplinary team that covers the fields of micro-fluidics, physics and bio-engineering. For me, it is a great opportunity to learn to work on a longer running project. Now I can apply all the experiences that I’ve gained during my time as PD and assistant professor with other professors.

What would be your biggest take-away for any aspiring MCEC PD or PhD that may think of taking a next step in academia?
My advice would be: Do not stop when you’re afraid that your research idea is not good enough. With time your idea will become better. How? By pitching your idea to many colleagues. Your ideas will improve, your research will become more focused. Peer reviewers will get familiar with your work . It’s not a miracle. Of course, luck plays a part. But it’s also about putting in the hard work and continuously improving your ideas.

Read more about the ‘Bubble Gun’-project, the ERC Starting Grant and see the vacancies of the project.



6 September 2019

Catalysis Connected

At the end of August, from 24 – 27, a large number of MCEC’s researchers had the opportunity to dive into the world of catalysis during Catalysis Connected. 16 engaging lectures divided over 4 days were given in the beautiful venue Museum Speelklok in Utrecht. There was a lot of interaction between the lecturers and the audience and enough time left for exploring the city. MCEC organised this event as a post-conference of Europacat 2019, together with Viran, Dutch Catalysis Society and ARC CBBC. We are happy to have given our researchers the chance to intensify their knowledge and meet established academics in the field of catalysis.




27 August 2019

Extreme high-resolution microscope coming to Utrecht

Dr. Marijn van Huis

Utrecht University is getting a new transmission electron microscope, which will be one of the most comprehensive electron microscopes for materials studies in the Netherlands, and one of the best in the world. Researchers will be able to use the microscope to study materials, nanoparticles, and 2D materials such as graphene with a resolution of a single atom. MCEC researcher Marijn van Huis explains more about this new addition on the website of Utrecht University: “With the new microscope, we can not only look at atoms, but also at the electrons surrounding them. That way, we can also see if the atoms carry an electric charge, and whether they are in an excited state. That’s important for the study of catalysts, for example, in which the atom’s charge determines whether it is catalytically active. With this technology, we can see where the catalytically active atoms are located in the material, and we can study how to activate them.”

Read more in English or in Dutch.



19 June 2019



2019 MCEC Lectureship Prof. Karsten Reuter

The MCEC Management Team is happy to announce that Prof. Karsten Reuter (Chair for Theoretical Chemistry and Catalysis Research Center, Technical University of Munich) is recipient of the third MCEC Lectureship.

15-23 May, he will visit different MCEC research groups, give scientific lectures and participate in scientific discussions. Have a look at the program here.

In Utrecht, a combined lecturing program will be organized, which will also include a lecture from Prof. George Huber (Richard Antoine and Dororthy O’Brien Professor of Chemical Engineering at University of Wisconsin-Madison), who will visit Utrecht at the same time.

All lectures are open to both MCEC members and all other people interested; registration is not required. Also, PhD lectures will be organized in Eindhoven and Utrecht for all MCEC PhDs and PDs.
**13 May 2019