To get a chemical reaction going, what is known as a catalyst is needed. Every reaction requires its own catalyst. The TU/e spin-off Hybrid Catalysis has managed to improve or replace existing catalysts with others it has developed itself.
The brains behind Hybrid Catalysis is Erik Abbenhuis. Having spent years conducting research at various European universities (including TU/e) on catalysis and organometallic chemistry, in 2005 he decided to start working for himself. “Initially, I did a lot of work for other companies, then later on I started developing catalysts for my own company as well.” Even today Abbenhuis still works closely with the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry.
In developing new catalysts, Abbenhuis is using a new raw material. “In order to make catalysts more selectively and efficiently.” Hybrid Catalysis is now the holder of several patents. For, among other things, making polyurethane, an important family of polymers.
“We hope that in a number of years' time our catalyst, which is unique thanks to the use of titanium instead of tin, will be used worldwide in the production of various products, such as shoe soles, polyurethane foam and PET bottles.”
Exciting times are dawning. “Before you start large-scale production of a catalyst, you first have to complete a mountain of paperwork. That can often take years. You are dealing with legislation, and you may have to take a step back now and then, before taking two steps forward. But we will get there, I have no doubt about that.”