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Posted: Jan 04, 2011

European grant means professor can play snooker with molecules

(Nanowerk News) TU Delft (NL) professor of process intensification, Andrzej Stankiewicz, has received an ERC Advanced Investigators Grant of 2.3 million from the European Research Council. Professor Stankiewicz will use the money to carry out research on improving chemical reactions at the molecular level in the next five years. This will allow him to help develop sustainable, waste-free and energy-efficient chemical processes for the production of clean fuels, for example.
Molecules as snooker balls
Andrzej Stankiewicz is delighted about the ERC Grant. "Partly as a result of this grant, I will be able to tackle the biggest challenge of all in my field of work that of having complete control over chemical reactions at the molecular level," he says. The effectiveness of a reaction depends on among other things the number and frequency of the collisions between molecules, the orientation of the molecules in relation to one another at the moment of the collision, and their energy. "Today's chemical reactors, as used in industry for example, do not provide much control over the molecules, which means that chemical reactions are far from efficient and they also produce more by-products than necessary."
The solution to this problem is a 'perfect' reaction environment which would give complete control over the geometry of the collisions between molecules. Energy could be selectively transferred to the right molecules, in the right form and quantity, at the right moment and in the right position. "You can say it is like having a little game of snooker with the molecules," says Stankiewicz. The structured reactor then plays the role of a snooker table and we use various forms of electromagnetic energy fields as the snooker cues. This will enable us to build a bridge between the fundamental research carried out in the field of chemical physics done by Herschbach, Lee and Polanyi (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1986) and the applied research of chemical process engineering." Stankiewicz's research will focus particularly on chemical reactions involving carbon dioxide, methane and water. The research could contribute significantly to achieving total sustainability in the production of fuels from these materials.
ERC Advanced Investigators Grant
The Advanced Investigators Grant is the most prestigious personal grant to be awarded by the European Research Council. It is designed to enable established, pioneering researchers working at the very highest levels in science, engineering and other academic specialisms, to carry out ground-breaking research into a subject of their own choosing. Research financed by the European Research Council is required to be ambitious, not only in terms of the scientific achievements that it aims at, but also in terms of its creativity and originality. It may, for example, involve unconventional methodology or research at the boundary between traditional subject areas.
Source: TU Delft
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