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Research Stratingh

"In-the-box" ideas awarded €2M in NWO-TOP programme

04 June 2015

Chemists from the UvA and the RUG are starting a large-scale collaboration on "Catalysis in Confined Spaces", a TOP-PUNT project which was awarded 2M euros this week by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The groups of Profs. Gadi Rothenberg, Joost Reek and Ben Feringa have joined forces to tackle this challenge.

This five-year project will connect homogeneous, heterogeneous and biocatalysis by researching a simple yet baffling question: How does a catalyst work when it is constrained in a small "box" of nanometric dimensions? This may seem trivial, but being "close to the wall" is very different than being "in the middle of the crowd", as any student who has been to a large music festival will tell you.

Now, researchers from the Sustainable Chemistry Research Priority Area at the UvA and from the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry at the RUG will try and unravel this mystery. The grant will be used to fund eight PhD projects, supervised by dr. Jarl Ivar van der Vlucht, dr. Stefania Grecea, dr. Raveendran Shiju, dr. David Dubbeldam, dr. Jan van Maarseveen, prof. dr. Bas de Bruin, prof. dr. Wesley Browne, and dr. Sander Wezenberg.

The eight PhD students will design, synthesize and study various types of soluble and solid (supra)molecular cages, which will be large enough for reacting several molecules simultaneously. By trapping (molecular) catalysts in the cages and/or other reactive sites into the cage walls, the teams will create tailored reaction environments, controlling reactions via second-coordination sphere and entropy effects. These catalysts will be used in a variety of reactions, and even for propelling nano-objects. Four PhD students will work on soluble supramolecular cages, analogous to the basic units of MOFs and enzyme cavities. Another four will focus on supercage solids: MOFs, linked graphene layers, and carbon nanotubes. All the results and methods will be shared in project meetings and through an online electronic data repository.

The project will cement the ties between the chemistry departments of the UvA and the RUG, bringing together expertise in homogeneous catalysis, heterogeneous catalysis, and biocatalysis and organic synthesis.

Rothenberg, who has coordinated the proposal, is very happy with the result: "When we started thinking about catalysis in confined spaces, we quickly realised that this is an intricate problem that can only be solved by a coordinated effort. We got eight high-quality scientists to collaborate on writing these PhD projects. The concept wherein all of the results, methods and equipment will be shared by all researchers increases the chances of the project’s success”.


TOP-PUNT program at NWO

Sustainable Chemistry RPA website

Last modified:21 June 2019 10.16 a.m.

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